I recently read about new Hindi movie Judgmental Hai Kya and whole controversy about its title which was earlier Mental Hai Kya. This example reminded me once more about the lack of awareness, ignorance, stigma attached to mental illness and mental health in general in our society. I have been associated with Schizophrenia Awareness Association(SAA) since 2009 in various forms. This is Pune based non-government organization(NGO) in the domain of mental health. Its primary purpose of existence is spreading awareness about mental health in the society, work towards rehabilitation, increase acceptance of people effected by mental health issues, publications, and many other means. It also completed two decades of its existence and service. I used run self help support groups(SHSG) in PCMC area also. I have written about mental health topics on this blog here.
We all have been observing the inaccurate portrayal of people affected by mental health issues, in the various forms of media. SAA, and many other organizations are bringing this up and help correct it. As you can think, one of the reasons for this is that the public stigma associated with mental health in the society. It is very easy to typecast such people. It happens in every part of society. May it be our neighborhood, our offices, colleges, and other places where public interaction takes place. Such people are often abused by using various terms and words, quite casually, which are demeaning, in local languages, and stigma is in our attitude also many a times. They become laughing stock. It, of course, does not help them, in their path of recovery; in fact, it worsens the situation most of the times. And in the cases, where persons who have not been initiated into treatment yet, stigma further deters them from getting one. As per one report, 3 out of 4 people suffering from mental illness, report stigmatized.
Mental illness is illness similar to other illnesses, such as cancer. While cancer does not get stigmatized, mental illness get hugely stigmatized. SAA recognized the need to tackle stigma now more directly. It has been part of awareness campaigns in some or the other form. SAA came up with a program called STITCH, which is an acronym of two words Stigma and Watch. There been some organizations carrying out similar activities of watching and reporting stigma incidences under the name of StigmaWatch. One such organization exists in Australia and more details can be found here. I also watched recently a lightening talk on this topic on TEDx. You can watch it here. There are many more inspiring talks on the topic on TEDx. SAA describes in detail as to what it intends to do in this area, on its website as below:
Stigma acts as a continuous source of shame and guilt for persons with mental illness and even their family members. There are over hundred stigmatic labels associated with mental illness. These labels which are passed from one person to another carry a feeling of rejection, abandonment & mockery. They demean, belittle and are of abusive nature. The stigma associated with mental illness is so deep rooted in the collective consciousness of the society that help is seldom available to the sufferer. Even if the sufferer has managed his disorder, there is insignificant acceptance. Due to stigma and social barriers, persons with mental illness are prevented from exercising their capacities and accessing socio-economic resources at par with others, thus pushing them to poverty and deprivation and making them the most vulnerable and marginalized section of the society.
De-stigmatization campaigns are conducted intermittently. Their reach is, however, limited and it hardly helps to change the mindset of people. The effect disappears once the campaign is over. Generally it is assumed that once the awareness is created stigma will vanish. But stigma may not necessarily reduce along with increase in awareness efforts. SAA’s Stitch Program aims to reduce stigma associated with mental illness. It’s an acronym of Stigma Watch. The project aims to stitch the torn apart (sufferers & caregivers) with the mainstream so that there remains no discrimination on the grounds of mental illness. The project aims to create stigma awareness and implement de-stigmatization programs in Pune and some adjoining districts, and gradually spread it in Maharashtra by conducting Train the Trainer (TTT) programs.
The objective of the project is
- To help people understand that how do they contribute unconsciously in spreading stigma
- To help people understand that what steps can they take to reduce stigma
- Identifying occurrences of stigma in daily life, shedding light on it, and insisting and pursuing corrective measures to stop the stigma from spreading further
- Supporting individuals and caregivers directly and indirectly affected by stigma and fostering their agency
Suitable short and long training sessions are proposed to be developed and conducted to sensitize mental health professionals, patients, caregivers and lay persons.
One of the sessions is organized, for care givers, by SAA on Aug 8, 2019 in Pune. Here are the details:
- नातेवाइकांकडून अथवा ओळखीच्या लोकांकडून कुटुंबातील व्यक्तीला मानसिक आजार असल्यामुळे कमीपणा आणणा रा, हेटाळणी करणारा अनुभव आपल्याला आला असे वाटते का?
- भेदभाव करणारे कमीपणा आणणारे शब्द, वाक्य, हावभाव, वर्तन आपणाला अनुभवाला आले असे आपणाला वाटते का ?
- शब्द अथवा वाक्य अथवा वर्तना पाठीमागचा उद्देश काय असावा?
- अशा अनुभवांमुळे त्यावेळी आपणाला काय वाटले? आपली प्रतिक्रिया काय होती? काय परिणाम झाला?
- आपल्या शुभार्थी अथवा कुटुंबातील अन्य व्यक्तींवर त्याचा काय परिणाम झाला?
- आज पाठीमागे वळून बघताना आपल्याला त्या विषयी काय वाटते? आपल्याला आणखीन वेगळ्या पद्धतीने तोंड देता आले असते असे वाटते का
- असा अनुभव आला नसता तर आजारामधून बाहेर पडण्यास मदत झाली असती असे आपणास वाटते का?