January 21, 2020
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Sadly, We Don't Mind

If we're unable to talk with the mentally ailing, there's something wrong with our faculties

Sadly, We Don't Mind
Sadly, We Don't Mind
The misery caused by the mind can be as acute as a physical illness or disorder. Yet mental health has never received the importance it deserves in India. "There’s a tendency to grossly under-represent mental health in health statistics although 20 persons out of every 1,000 suffer from severe mental illness and four times as many from emotional disorders," says clinical psychologist Monica Kumar, one of the founders of Manas, a Delhi-based ngo working in the field of mental health.

Trained at NIMHANS, Bangalore, Monica founded Manas six years ago along with psychiatrist Amiya Banerjee, special educator Joyshree Mukherjee, and psychologists Mridula Apte and Naveen Kumar. Most of them are associated with VIMHANS, Delhi’s leading psychiatric hospital.

Besides doing clinical work among those who can’t afford treatment, the team now hopes to create greater public awareness about mental health. The thrust is increasingly on community and educational programmes. Last month, Manas organised a mental awareness week that included workshops, discussions, film screenings, theatre and an art exhibition in order to disseminate information about mental health. The idea, says Monica, is to sensitise the media and influence public policy. On November 29 it is organising a media awareness workshop in Delhi. It also hopes to screen short spots about mental health on private and public radio and television.

It’s been tough going, getting the media to pause and ponder on a serious issue like mental health. But it’s a goal worth pursuing in a country where the mentally ill are left to wander the streets or are chained like sub-humans at religious shrines.

The tragedy of the mentally ill is all the more acute since many conditions like depression, schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder arise from dysfunctions and can today be treated with drugs and medication. Yet, as the specialists in Manas point out, lack of awareness and stigmatisation stop people from seeking treatment. Monica herself specialises in family therapy and working with mentally challenged or disturbed children. She says, "Childrens’ stresses often go unnoticed, leading to serious consequences." One of the most important steps towards dealing with the mind of the child and then the adult is to first create a reliable information base about mental health in India. Manas is trying to do just that.

Contact S-62 Okhla Industrial Area, New Delhi-20. E-mail: manasdelhi@airtelbroadband.in. Website: www.manas.org.in

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