' Mental Health and Stigma

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Mental Health and Stigma
By Shalini Quadros
Shalini Quadros is an assistant lecturer in the department of occupational therapy, MCOAHS, Manipal. She hails from Mukamar parish and is married and currently belongs to Udyavar parish. She is also a former office-bearer of Little Flowers of Mukamar, Dubai.

January 16, 2013

As usual on a Tuesday morning I boarded a bus going to work in Manipal. I entered the bus and approached an empty seat. When I was about to sit I felt like the person sitting next to me was staring at me and smiling. I realized that it was our neighbor Mr. Bhaskar.  He spoke to me gently and enquired about my well being. Even I had a nice time- pass talking to him until I reached my destination. After getting down from the bus I just thought to myself that it would have been very nice if I had met somebody like him every day so that the everyday travel of one hour was not a boring task.

As soon as I reached home later in the evening I informed my mom that I met Mr. Bhaskar in the bus this morning. When my mom heard the name Bhaskar she was scared and surprised for a moment! Then she explained me that he was a person with mental illness and warned me not to talk to him if I meet him next time!

This made me think about a certain issue. Is talking to mentally ill person wrong? That too when he spoke to me so well!

Before answering this question let us go through a few facts about the mental health. Mental health is the successful performance of mental functions in terms of thoughts, mood and behavior that results in productive activities, fulfilling relationships with others and the ability to adapt to change and to cope with adversity (Kaplan & Saddock, 2007).

Following are a few factors that can disturb the mental health

- Genetics, infections, brain defects or injury, prenatal damage, exposure to toxins
- Severe psychological trauma suffered as a child, such as emotional, physical, or sexual abuse
- An important early loss, such as the loss of a parent
- Neglect
- Poor ability to relate to others
- Death or divorce
- A dysfunctional family life
- Living in poverty
- Feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, anxiety, anger or loneliness
- Changing jobs or schools
- Social or cultural expectations (For example, a society that associates beauty with thinness can be a factor in the development of eating disorders.)
- Substance abuse by the person or the person's parents etc

If a person is suffering from a mental illness, one or more of the above factors are definitely responsible.

In the present scenario there are many medications available which can actually reduce the intensity and frequency of symptoms in mental illness. Along with the medications there are many other therapies like psychology, occupational therapy, social workers etc available which actually help in bringing the patient back into the mainstream of society. But, the main problem faced every time is the stigma or taboo behind the illness. The patients as well as the family members refuse to follow-up with the treatment many a time because of the stigma attached to it. I was discussing over the same matter with somebody a few days ago and was surprised to know that consuming lifelong medicines for diabetes or hypertension is accepted but not for mental illness!
So, now when I think back about Mr. Bhaskar, I guess if I am able to tell my mom about mental illness and educate her about the “Stigma” attached to it she would definitely try to change her views about the people suffering from mental illness. In the same way if all of us educate a few in our life time, I am sure we can totally change the point of view about the illness. I think a change in attitude towards the mental illness can make a lot of difference. What do you think?



Comments on this article
steffi crasta, dubai/mukamarMonday, January 21, 2013
Well written bhai.....thank u for passing those important messages which people havent gone through ....and as renny bhai said ...u have also become a mentor for all ......
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Maxim D' Silva, O.P., NagpurSunday, January 20, 2013
Thanks Shali for your inspiring and informative article on mental health and our attitude towards it. Keep it up!
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sibil, mangalore/neermargaSunday, January 20, 2013
yes u r rite...ther should be change in the attitudes of people or society towards the stigma attached with mentally ill or an insane..definately this will also add to upbring the health of an mentally ill preson...
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Shanthi m. Quadras, DubaiSunday, January 20, 2013
well written and timely article Shalini. In todays stress ridden world people are suffering from mental health than physical and such articles will really help us to change our attitude towards mentally ill people.
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Banumathe, CoimbatoreSaturday, January 19, 2013
Excellent article for a common man to
understand about stigma towards mental illness. I too agree that change in attitude
towards mental illness can make a lot of difference..
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Karthik, Friday, January 18, 2013
very good job done by shalini .i appriciate ur work.theese kind of articles educate many people and their life.
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Dr Mable Pereira, Moodubelle/UKFriday, January 18, 2013
Mental illness is a disease like any other health problem which is curable if timely treatment is given. Because of lack of social stigma and better availability of community health service, in western world people with mental disease enjoy reasonable quality of life. Society is also not judgemental about the illness in the western world.We indians have to learn a lot to be sympathetic about these people. Whenever we find such people who have difficulty in getting necessary help, it is important to guide them to proper counselling and medical help. This is the least we can do for the community to build a healthy society.
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jimmy noronha, Bellore, LucknowFriday, January 18, 2013
I have come across lots of people who were mentally disturbed for at least one of the reasons the writer has mentioned. However, my heart goes to those who have been born with a genetic problem which I feel is very sad indeed as there is hardly any cure. We must understand these problems and try to be sympathetic to them, rather than ostracize them simply because of their helplessness.
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renny crasta, vasai/mukamarFriday, January 18, 2013
Bai , very well written...firstly u were giving lectures to me n Steffi at home , then started ur proffession as lecturer n now in social networks also...very nice well done....
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Sunil Lawrence, Mangalore/KuwaitFriday, January 18, 2013
Dear shalini nice article,there is a need to put such topics for the youths in college
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joyce, mangaloreThursday, January 17, 2013
I have been working with mentally ill patients for 12 years. Whenever I say that I work in psychiatry unit my friends and family get surprised and ask how do you cope with that crazy environment.I have worked in India, middle east and North America.I find lots of difference in health care pattern for mentaly ill patients in all these three countries.For certain in here in North America mentally ill patient is given same status and respect of a normal adult.Its the education that makes difference.If people are aware of themselves then it makes lots of difference in our attitude.Self awareness along with all other resources available makes a normal person to accept a mentally sick person without any attached stigma to it.Readiness to accept treatment and other therapy modalities needs family support of course.
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Preethi, MangaloreThursday, January 17, 2013
Hi Shalini, its really a educative article. I suggest everyone to read such articles and magnify their awareness and assist mentally ill people in their needs. We should not keep the mentally ill keep away, they should not be abandoned but must be approached with Good Smile and effective relationship.
Its an eye opening article.
Thanks shalini...!!!
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jecintha, shirvaThursday, January 17, 2013
Very good article.more articles of these kind should be encouraged which can change the society.
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Sanjeev Kamath, Udupi / BahrainThursday, January 17, 2013
During a visit to a mental hospital the Chief Minister asked the doctor: "How do you determine if a patient should be admitted to hospital?"

Doctor: "Well, we fill a bathtub then give a teaspoon, a teacup and a bucket to the patient and ask him to empty the bathtub."

CM: "I understand. A normal would use the bucket because it is bigger than the spoon and the teacup."

Doctor: "No, a normal person would pull the drain plug. Well, do you want a bed near the window?"
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A. S. Mathew, U.S.A.Thursday, January 17, 2013
Excellent article touching the subject of mental health. One day I met my old friend, a very rich person acted very wild and unfriendly. I was confused, and I came to know from our mutual friends that he lost a lot of money in stocks and acting confused. As the author has clearly indicated, for many people, especially the light-hearted people, even some of the
minor unexpected setbacks in their lives can create serious mental depression in them. They need our love-compassion and stretched hands to lift them up not a judging and discarding attitude.
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Charles D'Mello, PangalaWednesday, January 16, 2013
Our attitude towards mentally ill patients will help them recover faster.
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JOHNSON COUTINHO, Palimar/Mira RoadWednesday, January 16, 2013
Communicating with a mentally challenged person requires you to use a variety of skills and tactics in order to get your message across in the most effective way. Learning to communicate well will take skill, practice, and most importantly, patience. Shalini good one keep writing. Hope to have more articles regarding occupational therapy.

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shiva, kota/dubaiWednesday, January 16, 2013
Thanks Shalini for good article. I am sure it would educate many people. A physician is not angry at the intemperance of a mad patient, nor does he take it ill to be railed at by a man in fever. Just so should a wise man treat all mankind, as a physician does his patient, and look upon them only as sick and extravagant. Yes, we must understand about the "Stigma"attached to it.
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