Review of Psychiatry - A Social Stigma! By Dr. Harsha Gopisetty
News paper headlines stating ‘Death of 25 mentally-ill patients, charred beyond recognition, in a devastating fire which engulfed their thatched hostel, pathetically chained to their cots in Ervadi Mental Hospital in Tamil Nadu' and on the other extreme 'States like Haryana do not have a mental hospital' is very revealing of the neglected state of approach to the mentally ill in India. One wonders! Why it is so? When all other sciences have made such great advances in India , Psychiatry has made virtually no headway, and is in a very nascent state.
The first Department of Psychiatry with outpatient facility in a general hospital in India was opened on 1st May 1933, at the then Carmichael Medical College, now known as R. G. Kar Medical College, in Kolkata.
The traditional approach to the care of the mentally ill during the last 200 years was custodial, rather than therapeutic. This approach to “Psychiatric Care Delivery System” was introduced in India from Britain . Mental hospitals were established in isolated areas, often on the outskirts with the object of segregating the patient as troublesome and dangerous to their neighbors. The overriding concern was to protect the citizens without regard for appropriate care and cure of the ailing patients. As a consequence of this objective of the mental hospitals, the quality of care in such hospitals had been very poor. The inmates were subjected to indignity and humiliation for an indefinite period, and once admitted never recovered, or rehabilitated back in their family, but doomed to the inevitable end. The stigma of mental illness thus prevailed.
What really needs to be done is, not subjugating us to the past approach. We need to accept such people, not as social misfits because of their 'mental illness', but with a positive attitude to understand the cause of their state and help them regain their lost self-respect and happiness.
''Mental Health Disorders" need to be de-stigmatized, and the general public need to be educated about the facts and treatment option that are available and made to understand that 90% of the victims are re-habitable as expressed by Dr. Leland M Heller in 'Biological Unhappiness'.
It is worthwhile gaining a little insight into what mental illness really is about. This will enlighten us considerably and change our present attitude to the real needy persons in our society. Strictly speaking no individual is absolutely normal. Everyone has a fad and is abnormal to the other who does not agree to the fad. Fads can become extreme in some persons mostly due to environmental considerations, and very little due to genetic causes.
Mental illness is a disease that causes mild to severe disturbances in thinking, perception and behavior. If these disturbances significantly impair a person's ability to cope with life's ordinary demands and routines, he or...