Mental Health-Is It Still A Taboo?


A hip and happening, successful career woman finally, after spending numerous sleepless nights, walks into a psychiatrist’s chamber! Yes, that’s the heroine, the leading lady of a latest Bollywood flick. But can heroines, good looking, successful girls have a mental disorder? Really? Since time immemorial heroes and heroines are shown to be visiting doctors, but rarely a psychiatrist and even if they do it has to be for something as serious as loss of memory. But, with changing times, here’s a leading lady who is shown visiting a psychiatrist for stress, anxiety, depression and sleepless nights. Since, cinema is a reflection of our society, it would be comfortable to say maybe somewhere, at some level the acceptance of mental illnesses is increasing.

But that level still does not comprise even 5 per cent of our populace. Visiting the psychiatrist is still a very hush-hush affair in India. While we love to flaunt our aping the West syndrome, it is in this aspect that we still lag behind. In modern cities of developed countries, ‘visiting the shrink’ is no big deal, but here if one is visiting the psychiatrist for stress, anxiety or depression then gossip mills churn overtime. Those visiting are either considered weak, incapable of coping with their own problems or people fabricate stories about them.

Mental health is a very broad term. While the dictionary definition of mental health is, ‘the psychological state of someone who is functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioral adjustment’, Sigmund Freud’s definition simplifies it as ‘having the capacity to work and to love’. This makes understanding mental health easy. But the stigma associated with it, makes it a societal taboo.

The reason behind this taboo stems from the fact that some mental illnesses are considered hereditary. Due to this the entire gamut of mental health has become a taboo and people think that it runs in the family. Those visiting the psychiatrist broadly get termed as insane, and the fear of living with the notoriety of insanity runs in the family, family members consider mental illness a hush-hush affair. What they do not realize is that in the process they are doing more harm to their near and dear ones. The one who is already suffering of stress, anxiety and depression tends to get suicidal if pushed against the wall. If they are made to feel that what they are suffering of is stigmatized and ruins the family name, then suicidal tendencies are bound to happen.

Instead if the family members and the society at large accepts the fact that just like physical ailments, psychological ailments also entail a whole large gamut of illness. And it is just as acceptable to visit a psychiatrist as it is to visit any other doctor, then the whole treatment process would have become much easier for those with mental health issues.

It is important to break the phobia of mental health and learn to accept it as any other normal physiological ailment.

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