Mental Health – The social stigma

The story goes that Narayanan Krishnan from Madurai was working with the Taj Hotels group in Bangalore and had been short-listed for an elite job in Switzerland for a leading hospitality group. One fine day in 2002, he was in Madurai taking a casual walk when he noticed something that changed his life forever.

On the side of the street he noticed a mentally ill man eating his own human waste as he could not withstand his hunger. This one incident brought forth a complete change in Krishnan’s mindset and he decided that helping this man and others in need would probably make his life have a meaning, it would probably be the thing that would make his life worth lived. Read more about Krishnan and his Akshaya Trust at Wikipedia here and the official website here.

In fact, Krishnan’s efforts in this regard were so path breaking that he ended up being in the Top 10 for the CNN Heroes initiative in 2010. Read his official CNN Heroes citation here. This incident was also used as a plot point in the popular Malayalam movie Ustad Hotel [Link to Wikipedia article].

Although it was a well known fact that mentally ill people get a raw deal the world over and especially in India, reading Sakshi Nanda’s latest post on Human Rights and Mental Health [Link to post] once again highlighted the fact just how bad the situation really is on the ground when it comes to the Human Rights of these individuals.

While our movies and everything else in popular culture makes fun of mentally ill people and uses them as caricatures, they unwittingly end up in reinforcing unnecessary humorous stereotypes of such people. If any of us have ever had an encounter with such people, we will clearly realize that there is nothing funny about their condition and that it probably is among the saddest things that can ever happen to a human being.

While we have celebrities endorsing SPCA and PETA, have you wondered why the same celebrities don’t come forward to endorse any cause relating to mental illnesses? The only reason for that would have to be the social stigma involved with the same. There is something that is so starkly disturbing associated with mental illness and related psychiatric conditions that most of us don’t even want to think about it, let alone talk about it. And as long as such stigma remains in people’s minds, such discrimination will continue to occur.

This post is but a small attempt to try to remove that social stigma at least among the readers of this post and to ensure that all of us at least take baby steps in this direction.