Human Rights & Mental Health #AtoZChallenge

The History.

Throughout the history of mankind (personkind?), the mentally ill have been reprimanded for no fault of their own. In the old times, the mentally ill were said to be possessed and stoned to death. There were numerous occasions when the ill were chained and separated from all human civilization for fear of them spreading their lunacy. In my opinion, we cannot really blame the people of those times. The understanding around mental illness or science itself was scant at best in those times. The solution to every problem was sought in god and every action was supposed to have a divine retribution. Human rights didn’t even exist and whatever the priest decided was the right call; no questions asked. It is hence something that we should ask ourselves, in the centuries that have passed since, have we really accepted the reality of mental illnesses? The answer would disappoint some.

The Present.

If we focus on India, there are many hospitals which are more like prisons than hospitals. Patients are given small, dingy rooms. They are often chained even without the presence of psychotic symptoms. It seems like the focus of these hospitals is on keeping these people in, away from the public. It should ideally be about treating the people inside so that they can be productive members of the outside society. Unfortunately that seems like a distant dream as it stands. Human rights seem to be the last concern of the administration when it comes to mental hospitals.

The Roadblocks.

Despite the various laws that are in place to protect the human rights of the mentally ill, the implementation of these is nowhere to be seen. The human rights violations don’t just stop in mental hospitals. They are prevalent even in home settings and in educational institutes. I am sure many of you have heard jokes about the Paagal Khaana ( Mental Asylum) of Agra. The jokes about it and how it is a place for lunatics and outcasts never stop. Stigmatization may also play a role in the educational opportunities for those with mental health issues as reflected by the high incidence of dropouts. Students with mental illness can face teasing, harassment, and prejudice from their peers, and arguably, their teachers (WHO, 2010).

When the educated are so distant from giving the mentally ill the treatment they need, the uneducated populace is even less likely to exhibit compassion to the mentally ill. The prevalence of religious beliefs often leads to people performing “exorcisms” to remove the demons in a person’s body. These “exorcisms” sometimes include being slashed by metal rods in the hopes of “beating the demon away.” The stigma attached to most mental illnesses leads to a grim reading for the present but things are not all that bad.

The Future.

With the success of public institutes like NIMHANS, Bengaluru and IBHAS, New Delhi, treatment for mental illnesses has been made affordable for the masses. The masses are becoming more aware of the rampant demon of depression. Slowly we can expect more awareness to lead to a more educated populace. The Mental Health Care Act, 2017 also reinforces the importance of protection of the human rights of the mentally ill. Some investigative journalists have carried out pioneer investigations exposing the ill treatment rampant in many hospitals.

India, much like the rest of the world, has a long way to go but we are getting there slowly. Mental health has found its mentions in the Bhagavad Gita as well (I will talk about it soon) and it is important that we strive to be more aware with each passing day.


17 Replies to “Human Rights & Mental Health #AtoZChallenge”

  1. This is a beautiful post. I am at loss of words to say about the word asylum. I don’t know, but I feel, each of us at some point of time would have felt the mental imbalance in our life. Lucky are those who say no to this. The, the asylum have to be rejuvenated. .

    1. Couldn’t agree more. Mental hospitals need to be re designed to make them more friendly and inclusive.

  2. These special persons are not given their due, instead of sympathy towards them,they are kept away from society.even society is not prepared .on every gathering they are kept behind doors. I Know a family with such a child and people avoid inviting them as the parents want to attend with the child.sorry state of affairs.

    1. We should indeed. I have actually been waiting to talk to you about the support group. Let me know a good time

  3. Even though people are well educated there still remains a taboo when their own people have mental illness. It is not yet talked about so openly. I am glad you have taken this up as a challenge and are striving to create awareness

    1. It’s sad and true. Even high profile families tend to distance themselves from struggling family members. It is a small step on a long road.

  4. Superb capsule of capturing the broad contours and issues relating to mental health at both a macro and micro level with such economy of expression

    1. That is indeed what the objective of this circadian exercise is. It is for the more preponderant accommodation of humanity and betterment of society at large

  5. This was such a thought provoking post Arjun. Yes, we need to be a little more sensitive towards mental health. Depression is still a taboo in our country.

    1. Depression is a taboo and going to mental hospitals or getting treatment is an even bigger one. There is a lot of work we need to do. It will be done only one small step at a time.

  6. Its a pain and shame both that we the so called educated people are so ignorant about the mental health, its treatment and the way patients suffering from it are treated socially. Your posts are a real eye openers Arjun.

    1. My posts only aim at spreading this info Anagha. The real heroes are the journalists who had the courage to go undercover in hospitals to expose these conditions.

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