Subramanian Swamy’s bipolarity comment on Priyanka Gandhi shows how mental health issues are still considered scandalous in our country. They can be used to berate an emerging politician and tarnish her image. Speaking to ANI Swamy alleged that Gandhi has bipolar disorder and beats up people. “Usko ek bimari hai jo sarvjanik jivan mein anukool aur upyukt nahi hai, usko bipolarity kehte hain yaani uski hinsawadi charitra dikhai padti hai, logon ko peet’ti hai. Public ko pata hona chaiye ki kab santulan kho baithegi, kisi ko pata nahi.” (She has a disease which makes her unfit for public life, which is called bipolarity, which means that she is violent, she beats up people. Public should know that no one knows when she will lose her mental balance.)

SOME TAKEAWAYS

  • Subramanian Swamy has alleged that Priyanka Gandhi has “bipolarity” and she beats up people.
  • Swamy even said that her condition made her unfit to lead a public life.
  • It is sketchy rumours like these which make people fear those who suffer from mental health issues.
  • Swamy is cashing on the fear and confusion which exists in our society when it comes to mental health problems.

Swamy is no stranger to making controversial statements. But this latest gem shows his little regard for women and complete lack of understanding of mental health issues. Bipolar disorder does not make every single patient so violent that they are unfit to lead a public life. Moreover, Gandhi has lived a significant part of her life in the public domain, and since we have no confirmation from Gandhi herself, or any media reports backing Swamy’s claim, it is fair to treat this as a rumour. But even if it is true it only means that she has a health problem that they need proper medical attention just like hypertension or diabetes.

But this latest gem shows his little regard for women and complete lack of understanding of mental health issues.

However, sketchy rumours like these make people fear those who suffer from mental health issues. And, on the other hand, those suffering from a mental health condition are afraid and even embarrassed to come in contact with their loved ones. Many suffer in silence, not even seeking help, out of fear of being an outcast. All this because there is no awareness regarding mental health in our country.

Sketchy rumours like these which make people fear those who suffer from mental health issues.

Swamy is just cashing on this fear and confusion which exists in our society when it comes to mental health problems. Which should make us ask ourselves, just why is it okay for someone to declare another person incapable of leading a public life, simply on the basis of a mental health problem? Why do people still feel so uncomfortable or so scandalised at the mere mention of such issues? Why do we treat them so differently than they would treat a person battling any other medical condition?

The answers to these questions are the key to understanding why Swamy could nonchalantly make such remarks, showing utter disrespect to Gandhi’s privacy. Every person deserves certain privacy and agency to discuss or disclose their health struggles, mental or otherwise, as per their comfort. Unless we make it easier for them to open up and stop treating them like they are demented or defective or unfit to be let out in public space without supervision.

Every person deserves a certain privacy and agency to discuss or disclose their health struggles, as per their comfort.

Last year, a report titled Public Perception Towards Mental Health in India revealed that 47% of participants admitted to using the word “retard” to describe people with mental illness. While Sixty-eight per cent also believed that they “should not be given any responsibility.” This report shows how naïve people are and how easy it is to misguide them. All you’ve to do is to say that someone has a mental health issue and people will begin seeing that person as unfit and ill. Which is why criticising Swamy’s dangerous statement becomes even more important. We expect our politicians to make responsible statements. To not add more fuel to existing confusion and misinformation around mental health problems.

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are author’s own.

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