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Mental illness still not accepted

  Mental illness still not accepted Young, successful actor, Sushant Singh Rajput, takes his own life on the morning of June 14,2020, by han...

 Mental illness still not accepted





Young, successful actor, Sushant Singh Rajput, takes his own

life on the morning of June 14,2020, by hanging himself. He

was 34. No sooner did the newsbreak, there was hysteria across news

channels, social media and people alike.The first few reports mentioned that the

actor was suffering from depression and anxiety. But what soon followed was

denial. With drama played out on primetime, it was declared Sushant ‘cannot’ be

depressed!  Why? Because he was successful, he

had money, he had films, and he had a girlfriend. “The Sushant we knew,’

claimed many, “was fun-loving, foundhappiness in little things. How could he

be depressed?” In claiming so, they ignored that an

individual, rich/poor, successful/failure,goodlooking or not can suffer from

depression and anxiety. Instead, the conclusion drawn was that

Sushant was murdered! And with that was murdered the much-needed discus-

sion on depression, an openness to and an acceptance of mental health (MH).

It’s almost a year since Sushant’s death, but has anything really changed about

how we perceive depression, anxiety or anything related to mental health?

Unfortunately, nothing.


MENTAL ILLNESS NEEDS TREATMENT

Cut to Roland Garros, June 2021. Twentythree-old World No. 2 Naomi Osaka with-

draws from the French Open amidst threats and fines. All she wanted was to

not attend the post-match press conferences as it made her anxious. But since

attending to the press was mandatory, Osaka withdrew citing via social media

her mental health, bouts with depression and anxiety brought on by public speak-

ing.

Psychiatrist Dr Ruksheda says, “Until we recognise that mental health is like a

physical function of our body, which impacts not only our mind but also our

body, acceptance of mental health issues and disorders isn’t going to be a norm.

Most people still tend to think of MH illness as a weakness of personality, reac-

tions to life events and an inability to face adversity or even reality. Hence, the

stigma, shame and fear, which comes from a place of misinformation and igno-

rance. Unfortunately, many of us still hold firmly to our faulty beliefs. That’s

why we still don’t see a change at systemic and institutional levels.”


MYTHS AND MISCONCEPTIONS

What adds to the already existing stigma is that everyone wants to have a say on

mental health, but no one wishes to understand it. Like in the case of

Sushant Singh Rajput, from his former girlfriend Ankita Lokhande, to actress

Kangana Ranaut along with few news anchors spoke of depression like it was

disdainful and a disease that declares one lunatic. And Sushant Singh wasn’t

one!

In the case of Naomi Osaka, Roland Garros said in its statement that Osaka

was reminded that “rules should apply equally to all players”.

Dr Naresh Vadlamani, Chief Consultant Psychiatrist, Columbus

Hospital, Hyderabad, explains that the logic most people use is that many people

can ‘come out’ of depression. “So if someone is not able to ‘come out’, then it

means they have a ‘weak’ mind. ‘I have a strong will.’ ‘I came out of it on my own.’

‘I did yoga, which helped me.’ ‘I did oil therapy, which helped me’ — so on and so

forth,” points out Dr Naresh. “They can not imagine nor are they aware of a sce-

nario where the disease of the nerves has been developing since childhood but

manifesting only now, even if everything seems alright. This ‘weak mind’ is equat-

ed as ‘unfit for sex’. Hence, the stigma. Then, there are misconceptions: Since

treatment for depressive disease is long, many believe the medicines are addic-

tive, sedative and/or damage kidneys and liver.”

People want to deny the ‘weak mind’ or simply blame external sources for the

depressive disease. Taking us through three scenarios, Dr Naresh explains the

stages of depression.


SCENARIO 1

Feeling depressed, sad and low is equal to body pains. Anyone can have it, even

daily for a few minutes or hours. It resolves on its own. A glass of water, reading

a book, sitting under a fan, etc. can help.


SCENARIO 2

You usually walk 5 km per day. You suffer no pain. You run a half marathon in 4 hours.

You get leg and body pain, feel exhausted and dehydrated. You seek help from fami-

ly or friends. They advise fluids, rest and a good massage. The body pain may

last for two days. Then, it heals.  Similarly, a reprimand, an embarrass-

ing situation, missing an event, etc. can upset you, make you feel low, and you

have an urge to cry. This is called depression. You need support and are advised

counselling, meditation, relaxing techniques, a holiday or therapy. These may

work, and you may be back to normal nafter a few days.

SCENARIO 3

Since birth and through childhood, you have some inconsistencies in thoughts

and emotions, greater mood variations than is considered normal,

precipitated by stressful situations like a happy event, a loss,

a failure. Sometimes thereneed not be any precipitating

event too. A person need not doanything. As in arthritis.

The depressive disease maymanifest as a child, during ado-

lescence, adult life or old age. It’s common in adolescence and

young adults. A person becomes depressed, sad and low, feels

fatigued, lacks the confidence and interest to do anything, is

lethargic, doesn’t feel motivated, struggles to stay focused,

harbours guilt and negative thoughts about self, feels


TO SPEAK OR NOT TO 

Dr Ruksheda points out that while more people today are open to talking about mental

health as a concept, it does not translate into real world and real time

action. Is that why the French Open officials chose to treat Naomi Osaka

the way they did even after she was honest and human in sharing her mental state?

“Sports psychology, with all its advances, is still more focused on making ‘winners’

and not as much about supporting athletes. It follows the corporate, big indus-

try track, so no surprise there! Disappointing but not surprising,” states

Dr Ruksheda. “Unless we add the medical and scientific aspect to mental

health, we’ll keep having more silently suffering mental health challenges and

not getting treated for mental illness, and more lives lost.”

In Osaka’s case, Dr Naresh even wonders if one would be forced to give press

interviews if he/she suffered from gastritis and stomach pain, kidney pain due

to stone, cough due to tuberculosis, or high fever due to a viral illness? No. But

the problem is that while Osaka knows she is suffering from Scenario 3, the

organisers think it is Scenario 2.”


SUCCESS OR FAILURE—WHAT’S TO BE BLAMED FOR DEPRESSION?

The answer is ‘neither’. Success has got nothing to do with any disease. Like we

don’t question a successful person from dying of cancer or heart diseases, in

depression, especially in Scenario 3, success or failure is irrelevant. Disease in

the brain nerves continue to exist and worsen if untreated, irrespective of

one’s success or failure. However, Dr Fareed Oomer, psychia-

trist, Sakra World Hospital, Bangalore, has a wonderful insight. “With success

comes the burden of responsibility, pressures of being in the public eye all the

time and having to keep up the image of a champion,” he adds. “Eventually, a

combination of circumstances pushes an individual over the edge. While diabetes,

hypertension, heart disease etc. follow the same multifactorial aetiology, these

problems are worn without guilt and accepted with sympathy, which strength-

ens the bearer’s resolve to pull through. Perhaps, we must ask ourselves if the

reason we don’t accept mental illness in those we perceive as successful is

because we’re scared to accept that success could be lonely, just failure is per-

ceived to be.”

Treating mental health not only relieves symptoms and improves daily

functionality and quality of life but also accords dignity to a person and the 

family.

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