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
- 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?