According to a study reported by the World Health Organisation (WHO), conducted for National Care Of Mental Health (NCMH), India is the most depressed country in the world. The report further states that a minimum of 6.5% of our population suffers from some sort of serious mental disorder. That amounts to over 89 million people in the nation. And yet, we fail to handle mental ailments like any other ailment.
The Live Love Laugh Foundation (TLLLF) conducted a survey to understand the perception of people around mental health disorder. The report- How India Perceives Mental Health: TLLLF 2018 National Survey Report– had numerous revelations regarding people’s perceptions understanding and attitude towards mental health disorders.
The study clearly revealed where we are going wrong.
How Indians Deal With Mental Health Disorders
A majority (47%) of the respondents from the study displayed stigma against people with mental illness. They believed that one should keep a safe distance from people suffering from mental disorders. Not just that, they also believed that talking or sitting with a mentally “unhealthy” person can affect their mental health too.
Apart from this, a fraction (26%) also feared mental patients. They stigmatised them as retards and believed that such patients are prone to violence. Hence, they even feared to be in the same neighbourhood as someone suffering from a mental illness.
People in the study did not even have a clear understanding of what mental illness actually is. 71% of them associated mentally ill people as those who are crazy/stupid/retard/mad/irresponsible/careless. This not only reflects a lack of knowledge about mental ailments but also the amount of stigma attached to it.
While 75% of the participants felt sympathy towards people suffering from mental disorders, a considerate number also shared feelings like hatred, anger and fear too. Not just that, more than 25% of people admitted that they are completely indifferent towards those suffering from a mental disorder.
All these clearly indicate that we have failed as a society to provide the right awareness and support for mental health. And it’s time to change that.
The Right Attitude
It’s not a sign of weakness
Would you consider yourself as a failure because you caught a cold? Or because you got diarrhoea? No, right? Then why is suffering from a mental disorder considered as a personal failure or weakness? You are weak of heart so you are suffering from depression. It’s something that you are suffering from but does not define you.
Similarly, parents should not consider themselves a failure if their children have mental illness. It just makes it harder for those suffering from it to talk about it.
Mental illness does not translate directly to criminality
Just because you heard that a murderer was schizophrenic and that made him commit the crime, doesn’t mean all schizophrenics are murderers. While some criminals show symptoms of mental ailments, generalising that every person suffering from a mental disorder will reflect criminal behavior is simply foolish.
It does nothing but further stigmatises an already stigmatised section. Until we normalise mental disorders like any other ailment and treat it in a similar manner, the stigma will only get worse.
The ailment does not define the person
Talking about mental disorders just like any medical disorder is crucial. And a person’s medical condition is a part of him but not his identity. People hesitate to share their mental illness fearing it would define them. They fear being labelled as incompetent or dangerous simply because we fail to separate the illness out of the person. Merely addressing people in the right way can make a huge difference for them.
For instance, using the phrase “someone with schizophrenia” over “schizophrenic” makes the person feel honoured and respected.
Address the issue
Mental illness is real. And it’s time we face it, talk about it and deal with it. The best way to end a stigma is to make it a part of our day-to-day conversation. To share, debate, discuss and conversate about it.
This means if you are feeling low, talk about it. If you find your friend, family, kin acting distant, be there for them. Share and be there for those who wish to share. Encouraging and initiative dialogue around mental health is the best way to defeat the evil perceptions society is carrying about it.
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