On the occasion of World Mental Health Week, iCALL Psychosocial Helpline brings you the first in a series of newsletters on mental health. The campaign begins with a look at some of the common myths related to mental illness in India
Mental health in India has been given scant recognition. There has always been a shortage of mental health professionals and facilities. According to the roster of the Indian Psychiatrists Society (IPS), the total number of psychiatrists in the country is between 2,500-5,000. There are estimated numbers of about 1000 psychiatric social workers and clinical psychologists available in India, for a population of about 20 to 30 million people who suffer from mental illness. A possible reason for the scarcity of professionals could be due to lack of awareness about the career options available as psychologist, psychotherapist and counsellor. People feel it is low paid job and building your own practice is difficult as in India still there is a stigma attached to visiting a mental health professional.
The fact is that mental health problems in India are increasing and can affect anyone. It is important to be aware of these concerns.
Superstition plays a very important role in propagating the myths of mental health in India. There are many cultural and religious beliefs that stop people from visiting a professional for help.
A recent article of LA Times stated “India battles misconceptions on mental illnesses. In rural areas of India, many villagers still believe mental illness is caused by evil spirits angry that the sick person had killed a cow during a past life. So-called therapy, conducted by witch doctors or family members, can include chaining up the mentally ill, chanting spells, poking them with pins, or beating them "to force the spirits out."
plays a very important role we will find plenty of examples stating that “My
child had problem in her 'Kundli'.
When she was born, I wish I had done some rituals to avoid it”.
Parents sometimes blame themselves for problems in childrearing; “I was not a good parent that's why my child is like this”; a mother may also state that “I was tense when I was pregnant, therefore my child got depression”.Some commonly myths that relate to mental illness are illustrate, along with the facts:
Myth: People with mental health problems are violent and unpredictable.
Fact: Most people with mental illness are not violent; only 3%-5% of violent acts are committed by individuals living with a serious mental illness; people with severe mental illnesses are more likely to be victims of violence than the general population.
Myth: People who go to a psychologist/psychiatrist are mad
Fact: People come to see a psychiatrist for many reasons. Some people have severe mental illnesses whereas some people are simply having trouble coping with the many stresses of modern life. Most people who see a psychologist/psychiatrist are simply trying to find ways to cope better with difficult feelings or behaviours and see psychiatric treatment as an opportunity to improve their lives.
Myth: People with mental health needs are weak and they cannot tolerate any kind of stress and are unable to hold a job.
Fact: People with mental health problems are just as productive as others. Mental health problems have nothing to do with being weak and many people need help to get better. There are many factors that contribute to mental health problems including biological factors, such as genes, physical illness, and injury. Life experiences, such as trauma, or a history of abuse, a family history of mental health problems, can all serve as contributory factors. People with mental health problems can get better and many recover completely. Many people with mental health problems are highly active members of our communities, therefore you may know someone with a mental health problem and don't even realize it.
Myth: Therapy and self-help are a waste of time. Why bother when you can just take a pill?
Fact: Treatment for mental health problems varies depending on the individual; and could include medication, therapy, or both. Many individuals work with multiple support systems during the healing and recovery process.
Myth: Children cannot be depressed.
Fact: Young children may show early warning signs of mental health concerns. These mental health problems are often clinically diagnosable.
Unfortunately, less than 20% of children and adolescents with diagnosable mental health problems receive the treatment they need. Early mental health support can help a child before problems interfere with other developmental needs.
Myth: I can't do anything for person with a mental health problem.
Fact: Friends and family can be important support systems, to help someone get the treatment and services they need by:
Reaching out and letting them know you are available to help
· Being available to listen to them and their stories
· Helping them access mental health services
· Learning and sharing the facts about mental health, especially if you hear something that isn't true
· Treating them with respect, just as you would anyone else
· Refusing to define them by labels such as "crazy" or “mad”
Myth: It is impossible to prevent mental illnesses.
Fact: Prevention of mental, emotional, and behavioural disorders focuses on addressing known risk factors such as exposure to trauma that can affect the chances that children, youth, and young adults will develop mental health problems. Identifying the vulnerable and encouraging help-seeking goes a long way in preventing mental illness.
Myth: One needs to take medicines for life and mental illnesses are not cure able
Fact: Sometimes medicine might not be necessary and only therapy can help. Medication may be necessary for controlling the initial stages of mental illness. It is not necessary that medication used is habit forming. Mental illnesses are manageable, just as one manages diabetes. There are people like Abraham Lincoln and John Nash who have been successful in their respectable fields, despite their illness.
Myth: Marriage will resolve everything: “Shaadi kara do; sab theek ho jayega”
Fact: Marriage does not resolve or cure mental illnesses.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), countries like India devote less than 1% of their health budgets to mental health compared to 10%, 12%, 18% in other countries.
Nathaniel Branden, a Canadian Psychotherapist, once stated that the first step towards change is awareness and second is acceptance. This mental health week we spread the facts of mental health. Celebrate World Mental Health week and pass this information on to people you know. Spread awareness.
- fwd: icall