We live in a state of denial
With the huge rise in mental ailments in India and the miniscule number of trained professionals, the task of dealing with, even accepting mental...
With the huge rise in mental ailments in India and the miniscule number of trained professionals, the task of dealing with, even accepting mental illness, becomes daunting Beena noticed that there was something wrong with her daughter when she was about five. She seemed to be having difficulty at school. She asked the child what it was but the child couldn't explain. A series of tests over many months pointed towards a hearing problem. She was given a hearing aid which embarrassed her and which she refused to wear. The problem continued. She was persuaded to sit closer to the teacher. The results were patchy. Chandra went through five operations over the next few years as the hearing difficulty turned out to be more complex than initially diagnosed. For a few years things went well. Then when Chadra turned 16 the parents started noticing huge mood swings. Small things seem to set her off into panic attacks. The following year the panic attacks had turned to hysterical outbursts. Beena tried talking to her, her friends, her teachers. None of them could offer an explanation. But yes, they too had noticed a change. Beena took Chandra to a psychiatrist, under duress. Chandra refused, at first, to talk to the psychiatrist, not trusting her and claiming that there was nothing wrong with her. Many sessions later, the psychiatrist suggested a series of tests. Chandra was diagnosed with acute psychosis. An illness that can be managed but not cured. I met Beena last week. They have engaged several tutors for the now 23 year old. Someone reads with her, and she takes singing classes which she loves. Unfortunately the drugs she needs to take dry out her throat so that her voice isn't as good as it used to be. Beena tries to engage with her but at least one break out or screaming march or incident happens on most days. That very morning she went out for a short walk and didn't return till two and a half hours later. She had broken her expensive sun glasses and lost her I phone, iPod and wallet. She said she had been looking for them but couldn't find them. Beena, on her way to see me, asked the reader if she could retrace Chandra's steps with her to see if any of it could be retrieved. I asked Beena how her younger daughter was taking all this, how her relationship with her sister was. Bad I was told, difficult, but thank god she was away from the house, in another city, studying. Meanwhile Beena has had to give up work as a set designer. And she lives with trepidation at all times. Her husband too has aged with the worry. What were their plans. I asked. What did the doctors suggest? I was told that the line between giving her some encouragement and too much excitement, was thin and could be tipped easily. They had been looking for facilities where she could be sent and live comfortably, involved in some activities but away from the bustle of Boston. They had located a place in rural Illinois and were planning to visit it. It had a lot of activities that could engage her but prevent her getting hyper excited. And though it was going to be very expensive, at least they would know that she was safe and well looked after. At least that option is possible in the West. With the huge rise in mental ailments in India and the miniscule number of trained professionals, the task of dealing with, even accepting mental illness, becomes daunting in India. Most cases go unreported and untreated. And the stigma is such that even families that can find and afford help are loathe to do so. The patients suffer, the families suffer. And we live in a state of denial. (The writer is a popular danseuse and social activist)
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