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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Today is the World Mental Health Day- 2010

mental healthToday is world mental health day; a day to reflect on issues related to mental health issues.
What sets mental health issues apart from other issues?
Almost all of us know the answer, it is the stigma against these issues or ignorance about these issues.
A person suffering from mental issues or illness not only has to contend with a difficult ailment but also weighed down by the additional burden of the stigma associated with the condition.


Stigma is a product of ignorance. The only way to deal with it is through education: what causes mental illness?, why bizarre symptoms occur and why mentally ill people are no different from the rest of the population?
In developing countries like India these basic questions don’t seem to exist in the system of medical health care.
According to statistical data — I wanted to write this particular article giving a detailed account of how mental illness is affecting socio-economic factors and overall the quality of life. But it seems there is not enough study material in this field that might direct us towards the pointers, in the Indian sub continent. Even the most famous search engines don’t seem to have any trend based information regarding this field in India. Whereas other “rich” countries seem to be having a sea of information regarding the health related issues. — ironically it seems there ain’t enough information to analyze.
But reports of negligence, lack of treatment and care are reported in daily mews papers from time to time, by the individual governing bodies of poor countries.
shamelessWorld Health Organization chief Margaret Chan on Thursday vowed to “change the landscape” for mental health at the launch of a drive to counter neglect that is leaving millions of poor people without care.
About 75 percent of sufferers in poor and middle income countries are thought to be left out, fueled by a lack of knowledge among ordinary doctors and nurses, social stigma, neglect, lack of funding, and an increasingly challenged rich country focus on psychiatric institutions, health experts said.
“One in four people are affected by mental, neurological disorders or substance abuse in their lifetime,” worldwide said WHO Assistant Director General Ala Alwan.
The WHO estimates that 150 million people suffer from depression, 40 million from epilepsy, 20 million from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease among a host of mental or neurological disorders.
“Efforts to close the mental health gap have been impeded by a wide spread assumption that improvements in mental health require sophisticated and expensive technologies, delivered in highly specialized settings by highly specialized staff,” said WHO Director General Chan,
“We face a misplaced perception that mental health intervention is a luxury,” she added pledging to challenge that attitude.
While high profile diseases grab attention, mental and neurological disorders are “swept under the carpet and brushed aside” even though they form 14 percent of global disease burden, Chan warned.
A cornerstone of the drive is a new guide for ordinary doctors and nurses in developing and emerging countries to ease diagnosis and proper treatment of mental and neurological disorders, as well as drug and alcohol abuse.
Simply educating people is sufficient to prevent these mental and neurological disorders.
Micheal Schratter, a std. V teacher, is battling with the stigmas associated these conditions. He has embarked on a journey. from Vancouver in British Columbia on Canada’s West coast and proposes to bike the equatorial distance of 40,000km. While doing so , Micheal will write for the Vancouver News paper periodically. Micheal suffers from Bipolar disorder but he does not let this illness define who he is.
Micheal’s column explores the issues surrounding mental illness and will try to dissolve the stigma that surrounds this common human condition. Micheal believes that he can convince the world that mentally ill people are just people, different types of people with different goals and aspirations all trying to live a fulfilling life.
“I cant think of any other affliction that harbors as much stigma as mental illness. How is that? , in third millennium, this illness still carries so much negativity?, Fear?, and misunderstanding?” he asks.


As a teacher Micheal tried to answer this question. Here are some of this conclusion: When mentally ill employees fall sick they need time off due to medical reasons that are not directly visible. This causes suspicion of, among other things, malingering and feigning illness.
Unpredictability is viewed as dangerous and the “Jekyll and Hyde” nature of some forms of mental illness is considerd threatening by general public.
Science has proven, and repeatedly asserts, that mental illness is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. Yet most people view the troubling behaviors caused by mental illness as signs of an impure soul or flawed personality. In India, the patient is seen as possessed by evil spirits and subjected to inhumane treatment.
Media, especially the visual media potray’s mentally ill people as “dangerous”. This is far from truth since they are more likely to hurt themselves than others. However, as long as the myth is propagated the ‘Stigma” persists.
Often mentally ill people are homeless and become drug addicts to cope the situation. Thus their behavior is a product of both addiction and condition.
Whatever may be the reason, stigma is tenacious and it can be a killer!
We need to help victims battle this stigma and, like Micheal, have the courage to RIDE, NOT HIDE!
I think ‘now’ is the time the Indian government take steps, at-least to educate its population.



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