This is the third post in the series on disability. In this post, we have highlighted the ambiguity and stigma associated with mental illness.
Of all the disabilities we surveyed, mental illness is by far the most complex one. The problem begins with the reluctance of families in accepting the existence of this problem in their kith and kin. They think of it as a matter of shame for the family and hide the affected from society. As a result, identifying the mentally ill itself becomes a challenge. As per our survey, only 1 in 20 differently abled is mentally ill, which we believe is much less than the actual number of mentally ill people in these areas.
Unlike other disabilities, mental illness is not something which can be determined by the mere physical appearance of a person. One needs to be trained in human psychology to conclude if a person suffers from any mental illness. Although we have the Indian Disability Evaluation and Assessment Scale (IDEAS), a scale for measuring and quantifying disability and mental disorders, ambiguity remains. There’s no popular debate regarding this issue which is attracting the collective conscience of the masses.
A dialogue from the recently released “Dear Zindagi”, a movie which aptly highlighted the nuances of mental illness, sums up the stigma associated with mental disorders. Shahrukh Khan, who plays the role of a psychiatrist in the movie, quotes, “We openly talk about every physical problem, be it related to eyes, ear, throat, stomach, legs or any other part. However, when it comes to the brain, we behave as though we don’t consider it to be a part of our body.”
The most important prerequisite to addressing any problem is the very acceptance of that problem. The ignorant attitude towards mental illness has to be changed if we want any progress in this field. We are trying our level best to educate the villagers on mental illness and encourage them to discuss these issues openly.