Politicians seem to follow the no-holds barred approach when it comes to attacking rivals. MP Subramanian Swamy’s recent comment, referring to Priyanka Gandhi‘s “Bipolarity”, in an interview to ANI, is a case in point. He went on to claim that her bipolarity has left her with a violent nature. We all know that the remarks were made with an intent to defame her. But the question that arises here is – Why are mental ailments used as a source of defamation? Why is mental illness not seen with the same empathy as physical illness?
Connection Between Physical And Mental Health
Mental and Physical Health are linked fundamentally. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. The WHO states that “there is no health without mental health“. If the two are interlinked, why is it that a person with a physical disability is seen with empathy while one with mental disability is mocked at?
The Need To Destigmatize Mental Ailments
“One of my greatest passions is speaking out about mental illness. There is still so much stigma surrounding it and my goal, day to day, is to do my part to break down the stigma one bit at a time. When people hear words like “bipolar disorder,” a lot of them don’t know how to react because the disorder itself is surrounded by a lot of misconceptions. I wish people knew that. Even though I struggle with a lot of things that most people don’t even have to think about, I’m still a human being and my health issues don’t make me scary or crazy,” says Anna Gaskin, a copy editor at Alestlelive.
Most of us still believe that those with mental illness are dangerous. Whereas, the truth lies in the fact that people with mental illness are more vulnerable to be victims than perpetrators
“There are 113 laws in India that take away the rights of persons living with mental illness, it’s important to understand that a person is not faking these symptoms. On the contrary, he/she is facing a lot of distress.” says Dr Achal Bhagat, senior consultant psychiatrist and psychotherapist, Apollo Hospital.
“Anybody and everybody can be affected. Economic status, social background and education have nothing to do with it. People have a hard time accepting that they could be suffering from a mental disorder, primarily because they feel it is a weakness which will be looked down upon by society at large,” Dr Sanju Gambhi, psychiatrist, Primus Super Speciality Hospital, tells Huffington Post.
How We Can Make Progress?
“I believe that we have unfortunately started looking at people not as human beings but through labels of convenience. It’s far easier to divide people into labels of ‘them’ and ‘us’ than have the empathy to hear their stories that would help us understand them better. We can see physical disabilities, so it’s easy to understand, but because mental disabilities cannot be seen, we are quick to judge, even though the person going through them is no less human than another. If we unlearn and get over our conditioned biases, there would be no stigma about mental health,” says Nikhil Taneja, co-founder and CEO, YUVAA.
We need to extend a helping hand to people in need. There are people going through mental ailments but keep it under wraps because they are aware that instead of helping, people will mock them. Sad, but true. It’s time when changed our outlook towards mental health issues and talked about it openly.
Anushika Srivastava is an Intern with SheThePeople.Tv