Recovery Month at SAA

I happened to come across the movie titled The Sixth Sense other day. This Bruce Willis starer is horror-thriller movie, with supposed to be having basis of mental illness case of one of the main characters(child). This movie, which came 15 years earlier, had become famous then. Bruce Willis plays a role of doctor trying to help the child who is suffering from schizophrenia, who also gets visual hallucinations. The line ‘I see dead people’ from this film, is said to be one of most famous lines of films ever. I, having been associated with the domain of mental health for almost 10 years now, mainly, involved in activities of Pune’s organization called Schizophrenia Awareness Association(SAA), I was watching this movie keenly. Much has has been written about this movie’s mental health angle. At the end of the film, I kept wishing the film touched upon using techniques of self-help and recovery. But alas, it is a movie, not a documentary of child dealing with mental illness!


Poster of the movie, courtesy Internet

I remembering all this, as one of the main proponents of self-help techniques and recovery techniques, Dr Abraham Low, whose birth anniversary is falls next week, on Feb 24. He was Polish by birth, but made USA his home, where he went on founding organization called Recovery Inc more than 80 years ago. SAA is going observe his birth anniversary as Recovery Month. Various programs are arranged on this occasion. One of the main activities of SAA, apart from spreading awareness, is facilitating and conducting self-help support groups(SHSG). The very basis for SHSG is Dr Low’s techniques. Some time back I had read Marathi translation of Dr Low’s biography titled My Dear Ones and I had written about it here. On the Feb 24 itself, there will be a session on recovery method. The recovery method is a system of cognitive behavioral techniques for controlling behavior and changing attitudes. People who practice the living skills detailed in the recovery method, learn to change their thoughts and behaviors. The changes in attitudes and beliefs follow.


Recovery International’s Logo, from their website


Dr Abraham Low, image courtesy Internet

One first things is there using spotting tools as listed below. The purpose of using a tool list is to enable newcomer Shubharthi(person with mental illness) to easily and rapidly participate in a recovery meeting.

  • Treat mental health as a business and not as a game
  • Humor is our best friend, temper is our worst enemy
  • If you cannot change an event, you can change your attitude towards it
  • Be self-led, not symptom-led
  • Symptoms are distressing but not dangerous
  • Temper is the intellectual blindness to the other side of the story
  • Comfort is a want, not a need
  • There is no right or wrong in the trivialities of every day life
  • Calm begets calm, temper begets temper
  • Don’t take our own dear selves too seriously
  • Feelings should be expressed and temper suppressed
  • Helplessness is not hopelessness
  • Some people have a passion for self-distrust
  • Temper maintains and intensifies symptoms
  • Do things in part acts
  • Endorse for the effort, not only for the performance
  • Have the courage to make a mistake
  • Feelings are not facts
  • Do the things you fear and hate to do
  • Fear is a belief-beliefs can be changed
  • Every measure of self-control leads to a measure of self-respect and ultimately self-confidence
  • Decide, plan, and act ,
  • A firm decision steadies me
  • Anticipation is often worse than realization
  • Replace an insecure thought with a secure thought
  • Bear the discomfort in order to gain comfort
  • Hurt feelings are just beliefs not shared
  • Lower your standards and your performance will rise
  • Things happen by chance and not by choice
  • People do things that annoy us, not to annoy us

This and other recovery techniques are used by counselors and SHSG facilitators world over. This is the time to remember his contribution, and spread awareness about his work in the society.

Anyways, the movie serves its purpose of horror/thriller, with a twist in the end, which I won’t reveal(no spoiler here!). The film also has been shot in Philadelphia, I could recognize some locations as I have traveled there few times. As I said at the beginning, much has been written about The Sixth Sense, specifically about treatment and portrayal of mental health in the films. I also had written about this topic in the past on the blog here. I appeal the readers to participate in spreading awareness about various aspects of mental health. I keep writing about various topics related to mental health here, and what we do at SAA. You can check them out here. Lastly, please participate in various programs SAA would be conducting during this recovery month. For more updates on this, stay tuned!


Return Gift-Touching Short Film


My friend Achyut Chopade, an IT professional turned into a film professional, has come up with another of his short film. I had talked about his earlier award winning short film Ardhaviram here on this blog. I finally got to watch this film titled as Return Gift. It is a Marathi short film with English subtitles. I have been indirectly associated with this film, since the he had narrated the script almost 8-9 months back, during the Sunday when we had gone for watching a play which was being arranged under a new concept of Sunday Morning Breakfast with Play in Pune.

The story of the film is simple. Poor maid’s daughter wishes to celebrate her birthday. And her wishes are gone for toss because of her drunkard father. Film ends on a happy note where, her father goes under transformation and kid gets celebrate her birthday. It is approximately 22 minutes’ short film. It begins with a scene at maid’s shack, where kid is nagging her sleepy mother for celebrating the birthday next day. Next scene is where the duo lands into house where maid works, and incidentally, the house is also busy enjoying birthday party. This where emotional turmoil begins in the mind of the kid which is portrayed beautifully. The maid succeeds in lending money for kid’s birthday. But their plans get shattered due to kid’s father who is habitual drinker. The scenes of loving father and his relationship with his daughter are also portrayed very well, by the actors. The drunkard father realizes his misdeeds and the film ends on happy note and with a power message against liquor abuse and addiction which is a major social issue in the country. To understand what transforms the father, one needs to wait to watch the movie. I don’t want to be a spoiler here.

The film is shot entirely in the housing society where me and Achyut live. I still remember the frantic activities on a fine Saturday of January this year, when he and his team(which includes another friend of mine, Bhushan Kulkarni, who volunteers with me at Schizophrenia Awareness Association-SAA, and a budding film professional and another common friend Atul Khade, amateur photographer) had gathered for a film shooting near my house. It had created much of excitement to onlookers as to what was going on. Achyut had also looked my house for birthday party scenes before going for my neighbor’s house instead. There are many intense scenes, filled with emotions, but during the shooting we did not notice that intensity. The process of making film, and watching it turn into a impacting story is absolutely different experience, and many of use were in awe. The impact it creates is very different when one watches a movie in its entirety.

I will share the short film’s YouTube link once it is made available by Achyut. Don’t miss to watch that to appreciate not only the message but also way it comes across the viewers.

Mental Health Care Bill

Last week parliament passed GST bill amidst much hype and publicity. At the same time, Rajya Sabha passed Mental Health Care Bill as well, which hardly anyone noticed. This is major milestone for the bill which was formulated in 2013.

I am associated with Schizophrenia Awareness Association(SAA) which works in the area of mental health area. The president of SAA, Amrit Bakshey has been championing this bill and has keenly following its journey. He has written an articles on its journey which I am reproducing it below:

Stake holders’ wait for it become a law will end soon! Much to the joy of the mental health community, the Rajya Sabha passed the Mental Health Care Bill 2013 with a voice vote on Monday the 8th August 2016. As the news spread that the Bill is listed on the business of the day, thousands of stake holders left their other engagement and were glued to the TV channels, sending minute to minute reports to their groups. The Bill should have an easy passage in the Lok Sabha and President’s assent should come soon.

For those of us who have been following the passage of the Bill from day one, it was a great historic moment. Six years back, with a view to harmonize the Mental Health Act 1987 (MHA 1987) with the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD) which India had signed and ratified on 30th March 2007 and 1st October 2007 respectively, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MHFW) decided in the National Consultation Meet held on 22nd January 2010 to amend or replace the MHA 1987. The work was assigned to a senior and a highly qualified psychiatrist with vast experience in drafting mental health laws of several nations on WHO assignments and a legal expert from a reputed law college of the country.

After a rigorous participative process stretching over 3 years, consisting of regional and national consultations with stake holders, including psychiatrists, family care-givers, user survivors and NGOs and consultations with states and various ministries and after 3 drafts ( the first two were amendments to Mental Health Act 1987), the 4th and final draft bill, repealing the MHA 1987, was cleared by the Cabinet on 13th June 2013 and was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on 19th August 2013 as Mental Health Care Bill 2013 (MHCB 2013). On 20th August 2013, the Chairman Rajya Sabha referred the Bill to the all-party Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare. The Parliamentary Committee after due deliberations and consultations with experts signed its favourable report on 11th November 2013 and presented to the Chairman Rajya Sabha and Speaker Lok Sabha on the 20th November 2013. The Cabinet approved the recommendations of the Parliament Committee on 30th January 2014.

The Bill cleared by the all-party Parliament Committee fell in the category of consensus bills and not much debate as such was required to pass it. The Bill, a property of the House, however, awaited an agonizing 3 years for Parliament’s time to discuss and pass to become a law.

MHCB 2013 is a highly progressive and beneficial legislation in offing. Right to access mental health care facilities, community living, protection from cruelty, inhuman treatment and right to equality and non-discrimination in treatment are some of the most laudable features of the Bill.

This chapter V of the Bill provides far reaching rights and elaborate benefits to the persons with mental illness (PWMI). The benefits provided as rights are unparalleled in the history of Indian legislation. What is offered is comparable to the best in the World. Section 18 makes mental health care and treatment at affordable cost and nearer home as a right and free for those below poverty line. Section 19 gives PWMI the right to live in the community rather than languish in institutions. This will reduce stigma. Sections 20 to 28 protect the basic human rights of PWMI including the right to equality and non-discrimination, to know about their illness, the treatment being given, the confidentiality and free legal advice. It enables the PWMIs admitted in mental health establishments (MHE) to enjoy basic amenities as are available to patients in other hospitals. Section 21 (2) provides for medical insurance policies for PWMIs by insurance companies the same way as for physical illness.

Sections 29 to 32 of Chapter VI cast responsibilities on State to promote mental health, launch preventive programmes, create awareness, reduce stigma and develop human resource. Sections 94 to 108 of Chapter XII regarding admission to, treatment  in and discharge from mental health establishments protect human rights fully without diluting the need for appropriate treatment. Sub Sections (4), (5) and (6) of Section 96 take adequate care to prevent molestation of minors in a MHE especially of minor girls. Section 103 on Emergency Treatment is a highly practical and helpful provision. Section 104 prohibiting certain treatments, such as unmodified ECT and sterilization and restrain on chaining are highly desirable pro human right provisions. Section 105 provides safeguards in regard to psychosurgery. Section 106 is a human right provision curbing physical restraint and seclusion, to be used only to prevent harm to self or others.

The Bill in its 4 year journey was debated and discussed and changes made after due process of consultation with all stake holders. Consultative process at the regional and at national level was all inclusive. Psychiatrists as well as other stake holders were invited and they participated. IPS Representatives also sought and got exclusive meetings with the Ministry Officials.

During this period of 4 years, there were several controversies and acrimonies. Some Human Right Activists criticized the Bill vehemently as in their view the Bill did not protect the human rights of persons with mental illness adequately. Some families felt that the provisions in regard to nominative representatives and advance directives would pose practical problems in caregiving. The Indian Psychiatrists Society (IPS) seemed unhappy that they were denied their due role in the drafting of the MHCB 2013. The MHA 1987 was drafted by IPS.

Their demurrals were banning of unmodified ECT which was for the attending psychiatrist to decide, the high cost of modified ECT, risk due to anesthesia and also non-availability of anesthetists for modified ECT. The IPS was also opposed to the registration of general hospitals with psychiatric beds.

The counter view of the framers and the supporters of the Bill was that ECT without anesthesia and muscle relaxant caused suffering and could cause injuries and therefore it was violative of human rights. It had been shunned by lot many nations. The country had over 16000 anesthetists against some 4500 psychiatrists. As a surgeon would not perform a surgery without an anesthetist, a psychiatrist should not administer ECT without an anesthetist. One time simple registration of mental health care establishments (where PWMI were kept overnight) including General Hospitals with psychiatric beds was required for statistical purposes and also to ensure that minimum standards were maintained and incidents like Erawadi, (28 chained inmates with mental illness died in a fire) did not occur again and patients were not exposed to abuse and neglect in ill-equipped mental health facilities both in the private and public sector. If a mental health establishment was registered under Clinical Establishments Act, (which was to be the case with general hospitals), registration under the proposed MHCA would have been waived.

Some IPS members also took cudgels on behalf of caregivers and said that the Bill was modelled after the western concept of institutional psychiatric care and would marginalize the families. It was also said that the nominated representatives would dupe the patients, taking major decisions on their behalf in regard to care and property.

Those associated with the drafting of the Bill quoted clause 17.c of the Bill and stated that a nominated representative had no role in regard to the property. His/Her role was limited to providing support to PWMI in making treatment decisions only. The Bill complied with the UNCRPD. The concept of mental health care and protection of human rights related thereto, was universal and not a country or region specific. It was a Mental Health Care Bill to provide mental health care to PWMIs. What was good for the PWMIs was also good for their families.

MHA 1987 which was a robust act when it was enacted had outlived its utility and needed to be replaced with a new law which inter alia protected human rights of PWMI. Its provisions had become outdated and were prone to struck down if challenged in a court of law leading to a vacuum which would have been dangerous.

The Caregivers and the PWMI are thrilled at the prospect of getting a beneficial law for them in a few months’ time and look forward to the passing of the sister Bill ‘’Rights of Persons with Disability Bill’’.  One hopes that all stake holders including senior and well respected members of psychiatric community and human right activists will also welcome the Mental Health Care Act 2016 which should soon become a reality and which is in the interest of the entire mental health community. The battle is half won as an equally important part would be the implementation of the new act. Many salutary provisions remain on paper only for want of proper implementation. State authorities, judiciary and mental health activists will have to be on their toes.

Indian Express also had article on this explaining various topics in this bill. Please find the link here. Hope this bill, once passed in Lok Sabha, with proper implementation, will change the lives and plight of persons with mental illness.

Emotions and Schizophrenia

At Schizophrenia Awareness Association(SAA) where I volunteer and support, on every fourth Saturday, a guest lecture is arranged, as part of awareness and knowledge sharing for patients with mental illness(PMI) and their caregivers. The process of recovery and caregiving is very challenging process and these monthly supplemental sessions, along with self-help support groups(SHSGs) help both PMI and caregiver. This month’s session was on role of emotions management for PMI and caregivers. This was delivered by renowned psychologist Dr C G Deshpande. I managed to attend this fourth Saturday(April 23) session after long time, I wanted to cover this topic here on the blog.


Image courtesy by SAA 2015 desktop calendar

Dr C G Deshpande, now in his eighties, is renowned psychologist, professor at various universities, researcher and author of various books. His latest book titled Treatment Resistant Schizophrenia, which deals with topic of chronic schizophrenia, why don’t they respond to treatments, and what can be done about it. This book came out as outcome of major research project he had undertaken under UGC grant. He started his speech by remembering Dr Shirwaikar, who was among the first ones to underline the importance of psychological aspects during treatment of schizophrenia, along with medicines, which he termed as behavioral medicine. He then went on sighting different examples and cases where significance of emotions was underlined.

We often hear word like emotional quotient and why it is important. Having emotional intelligence, emotional literacy in the families is becoming increasing a need of the hour. Empathy plays important role in building trusted relations in all walks of life. He quoted famous author Dennis Jaffe’s famous statement, all diseases are social diseases. It is now widely accepted that emotions impact body. Emotions are learnt socially and covers spectrum of aspects including understanding our own emotions, and also of others, responding appropriately to them. In the western world, the new discipline called Self Science has been developed for enhancing emotional well-being, emotional literacy, especially at young age. He also elaborated a personality disorder Alexithymia which is related to inert inability to understand and express emotions. Many mental illnesses find their roots in lack of understanding emotions, not able to respond appropriately to emotional needs of members of the family, or emotional trauma which persons go through. He also highlighted another psychological aspect which is anxiety and how it can cause mental disorder. He underlined the need of empathizing with PMIs on their feelings and emotions. While talking of emotions, and ability to express them, he touched upon a very fundamental topic of schizophrenia which is related to fact that PMIs generally loose coordination between emotions, thought and behavior. He elaborated that, during counseling process  one can apply concept called by applying EDLOF(emotional discrimination and labeling of faces), to recognize the deviation.

Similarly, he underlined the need of being cognizant of the emotions of PMI as well as caregiver, and appropriately responding to them. Specifically, the challenges in the journey of caregiving, the understanding of general psychology becomes important. Some aspects of REBT in caregiving were handled during a session at SAA sometime back. He underlined the need of creating, as far as possible, a permissive atmosphere, rather than disciplined or authoritarian atmosphere for PMIs that can go long way in recovery process. In other words, the irritation quotient of caregivers needs to be low, and emotional quotient needs to be higher. He also went on giving some tips to caregivers, such as accepting emotions of PMIs as they are, never using emotionally loaded negative words during conversations with PMIs, never punish PMIs including emotional punishment, empathize with PMIs, recognizing/keeping track of emotional level at various time during the day, keeping normal emotions and facial expressions as far possible.

This session which lasted for more than an hour, was quite enlightening covering aspects of psychology in general and emotions specifically. I am sure this will help caregivers and counselors understand and deal with various challenges in the process of their wards’ recovery and caregiving itself.

Petition for life care for persons with mental illness

I have talked on the topic of persons with mental illnesses, and issues related to various aspects of mental health on my blog here. I also volunteer and support Pune based Schizophrenia Awareness Association(SAA) and have been associated with Bengaluru based FACEMi. One of the daunting issues in mental health in the society is supporting persons with mental illness(PMI) during their battle with life, and rehabilitation. The rehabilitation is most of the times a life long process, especially, when a person is suffering from major mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, mania or depression. Providing care and support during this process is absolutely essential. Giving care to PMIs by his/her relatives is something we certainly see happening, but there are challenges in that also, which is another topic for a blog.

The issue I want to talk today here is about related to concern or worry of care givers about care giving their wards after their death. Unless the next set of care givers arise, it is very much possible the PMIs are left stranded with no one to look after them. We often see PMIs left alone on the streets, homeless, with no one to look after them. Of course, many of them are suffering from other illnesses such Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease(Recent Marathi movie Astu अस्तु, starred by Dr Mohan Agashe handled this subject).

There are good samaritans in the society like, one doctor couple in Ahmednagar near Pune doing work in this area, by taking care of such stranded PMIs. The name of the organization is Mauli Seva Pratishthan, and is started by Dr Mr and Mrs Dhamane. You may check their website here. But such facilities are going to have their own limitations due to funds and cannot scale all over the country. Even at SAA, during our meetings, we have heard shubhankars(शुभंकर, care givers) raising this concern and the need, many times. SAA is trying to address the issue to its capacity and for the members of the organization. That is also going to have limitations though as said earlier.

So what is the ask here? The government should do something about it. And it is high time for it. FACEMi has been on the forefront in terms of advocating this topic. Is this trending a life sentence or a death sentence? And how long will it take for the government to act? This is the question families and patients numbering almost 80 million in India, suffering from severe and common mental disorders are asking. The government has access to resources and funds to undertake such activity.


Petition for life care for persons with mental illness. Image courtesy: FACEMi petition page on

The central government Ministry of Health has a network of more than 40 regional mental hospitals, and many more autonomous institutions. The mental hospitals or general hospitals sponsored and supported by state government and municipal corporations having psychiatric department, are also available. I know, the plight of these government mental hospitals is in itself a big topic to discuss and needs to huge improvement. This has been raised on various forums and we keep reading about them in the newspapers.


Regional Mental Hospital, Yerwada, Pune

Anyways, FACEMi has filed petition to seek support from general public on the cause of life care for PMIs, especially, after death of their primary care givers, and lack of willingness or secondary care givers or lack of them. FACEMi wants your support on this petition. I have signed it. I appeal my readers to review and sign it here. This petition  is to make the government take immediate action for providing life care for persons with mental illness and set up a NATIONAL MENTAL DISABILITY LIFE CARE TRUST under the Prime Ministers Office(PMO) so that the buck is not passed on from one ministry (Health) to the other (Disability/Social Justice Ministry) as it is happening at present. There are right now two ways of admitting to these mental hospitals is. One if voluntary, and the other by relatives, with support from court. This process may require changes to allow government authority to identify and admit them, may be with help of court, and treat them. Of course, social organizations working in this area can certainly lend a hand here, but then that also needs to be accommodated in the procedure. These mental hospitals also needs to be enhanced to have special sections such as day care for such PMIs where they are looked after, and helped in the process of rehabilitation.

The organizations such as are excellent examples of technology can make it easy to bring changes to society by garnering support of the population for the noble and right causes.  Hope this creates change here. Please sign this petition and help to bring this much required change to support persons with mental illness.

Movies and Mental Illness-Part#1

For quite some time, I wanted to write about how people with mental illness(PMI) are depicted in movies and what influence does it have on the society in general. Recently, I read an article in Diwali edition of a magazine on this topic. This blog is loosely based on that article. For ease of reading, I have divided into two parts. I had written about a movie Don Juan DeMarco recently, in which I had watched recently, which has this topic treated very differently.

Anyone who behaves in a socially unacceptable way, is generally termed as mad person. Likewise, for people whom we see street side, lost in their own world, lying on the footpath, untidy, also are referred as mad or retarded people. One does not even realize many times this might be situation of person with mental illness and it needs to be handled differently. The incorrect, irresponsible portrayal, over the years, of such PMIs in fiction, movies, is usually behind such usage of terminology in the society. At the same time, off late, one can also see this trend changing. Mental health related issues, characters portrayal has started getting more real, more scientific, and also more responsible. This is certainly heartening.

The audio visual medium such as movies has huge potential to generate deep psychosomatic, mental reactions among its viewers. They also hold the ability to educate and make society aware of mental health related issues. It is interesting to note that the birth of film media by Lumiere brothers, and hysteria related research by Sigmund Freud, happened in the same year which is 1895. One can say, since then, that films and psychiatry have been going hand-in-hand and influencing each other.

In western countries, during 1950-60, taking psychiatric treatment became socially acceptable. Film media also had starting making use such subjects and topics, mostly in a way as mentioned above, to generate humor, comedy. But since 1980, realistic movies with scientific portrayal and also usage of such issues began. In India also, since 2000, similar trend can be seen. Since this portrayal, which is mainly entertainment oriented, even realistic portrayal can spread inaccurate information, views and stereotypical images about these topics get to the society. The main reason for this is that process of converting personal, family and society forms to film media  is not all that easy. Experiences on the level of thoughts and emotions cannot be very easily captured in visual form.

One can trace the reasons and purpose why PMIs are visualized and depicted. Sometimes it is used to bring thrill, suspense, mystery(Hindi movies Gupt, Bajigar; Enlgish movies Silence of Lambs, Psycho), or humor(English silent movie The Escaped Lunatic, Marathi movie Pedgaoche Shahane). Sometimes, we see such characters are imagined/used, while telling stories of human relationship(Ex. Marathi movie Astu has character of person with dementia, Hindi movie 15 Park Avenue, has character which is impacted due to post traumatic disorder). The movies such as American Beauty has many characters with disorder such as passive aggression, narcissism), Bergman’s movie Through a Glass Darkly dealt with schizophrenia. Many movies, which are biopics of personalities known to be having living with mental illness, still someone who achieved something in their fields. Examples include Beautiful Mind based on John Nash’s life, Lust for Life based on life of Van Gogh, Rain Man based on Kim Peek. Another interesting category of films we have come to notice is that psychiatric treatment being main theme of the films. We have seen this theme in movies such as Devrai(Marathi film starring Atul Kulkarni), Karthik Calling Karthik, Black Swan, etc.

In the next blog, let’s make journey to some other categories of films and how they handled mental illness. Till then, stay tuned, and feel free to share your experiences.

Introduction to mental health

First week on October is celebrated as mental health week. I have been working as volunteer for Schizophrenia Awareness Association(SAA) since 2009. SAA is involved in spreading awareness about mental health issues in the society.  This blog is an attempt to take that further on the eve of mental health week. This article is written, originally in Marathi, by Neelima Bapat, one of the key members of SAA. I have translated it in English with minor deviation and additions.

For variety of reasons, we, humans, face disturbances to our well-being, and in general health time to time and it natural phenomenon. This disturbance or off-balance is termed as illness. These can take place on two levels. One is on physical level and other is on mental level. Because of advancements in medical sciences, we know reasons for physical illness in most of the cases. Due to this knowledge we understand the pain the person might be going through, we are compassionate about it, we also are involved in treating the person, helping him or her to get out of the illness. Society, including government, is generally aware of physical health issues, it extends its support to such people-for example-blindness, physical disabilities etc. This all suddenly disappears when we see person who is affected by mental illness. We hardly see any awareness and support.

Strictly speaking in medical lingo, mental illness is direct outcome of imbalance created between basic building blocks of body called cells and fluid present among them in the brain. The brain contains certain chemical elements. If for some reasons, the desired levels of these chemicals get altered, that manifests into mental disorders. Because of these altered levels, the designated jobs to these chemicals don’t take place and that results in turmoil and state of flux. The sorry state of affairs is that the person going through these changes rarely gets any support, or is acknowledged of such issue. On the contrary, society and people around such person is subject to ill-treatment, ignorance, hate and many times cruelty. The result is loneliness, and withdrawal from the society which cascades into further deterioration

Mental disorders or illnesses are of different types.Schizophrenia, depression, bipolar mood disorders are some examples.  Phobia, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder(OCD), personality disorder are few others. It is estimated that roughly 15 to 20% people are affected by some or the other mental disorder, about 10% are suffering from major mental disorder and about 1 in every 60 persons, is affected by schizophrenia. This pattern is to be found across the globe, irrespective of their country, religion, caste, creed, gender, social or financial status does not matter.

Schizophrenia, mood disorders are considered to be major mental health issues. Among all natural and living beings, human beings are at the advanced stage of evolution and hence is most powerful. The main reason is that human beings are capable of intelligence, thinking and also ability to use it very effectively. Because of this humans have achieved mastery over simple acts such as doing daily chores to complex acts such ascending the space. Unfortunately, mental health disorders such as schizophrenia impacts severely this capability of humans. This illness transforms nearby persons into totally strangers, converts the life into a sea saw ride, lines between real and abstract, virtual becomes thin, the life collapses like a collapse of building made out of playing cards. Persons get various and different types of uncontrollable thoughts which are on one side away from reality, closer to fantasy and on the extreme side are hallucinations in nature. Person looses grip of life, career and even relationships. They loose faith and confidence on themselves and even on others. The most sad part of all this is that that person cannot do anything about it and completely helpless.

As per medical science, due to bio-chemical changes in the brain, person looses co-ordination between thoughts, emotions and behavior. There is no synergy between body and mind. That is the reason we notice people with such illnesses, show incorrect emotions at incorrect place at incorrect time. They also exhibit paranoid and cynical expressions towards close ones. Due to all such as turmoil, and confused state the life of the person is shattered. Since last few years, medical fraternity has been trying to find the root cause of such bio-chemical changes. Though we still don’t have a breakthrough on preventive and curative medicines, we now have in hour hands medicines which can effectively manage this disorder by partially restoring bio-chemical imbalance, thereby keeping the symptoms under control. It is needless to say that medicines alone are not sufficient in treating such illness. The support from families, and society is equally important.

Acceptance is first state. Treatment by psychiatrists is second. And then role of counselors to work on behavioral aspects, communication skills, relationships with closed ones is significant. The self help support groups(SHSG), like the one I facilitate at YCM Hospital Pimpri(in Pune),  play also important role during all this process where persons and their families get to share, talk, know about this illness. SHSGs provide such platform and hugely compliments medical treatment. Families also need to learn certain dos and don’t when dealing with persons impacted by schizophrenia or similar mental disorders. They need to learn to lower expectations from their wards. Staying away from guilt feeling, avoiding burn out, ensuring to continue with ones life and career while managing persons is critical., goes long way helping persons to come out the illness and strengthening the relationship.

Mental health issues such as schizophrenia usually hit during adolescent age. Heredity also plays role as well. Unpleasant events in ones life, during age of 15 to 25, such as failures in examinations, love life, career, death of dear ones, can trigger such illnesses. Such events are not cause of the illnesses, which is a of course, a misconception in the society due to lack of awareness. This is just one misconception out of many, which are prevalent in society, especially in Indian society. Superstitions is big one from that list. Faith that someone has performed act of witch craft which has caused such issue is very common, besides faith in sins of past life resulting in such issue is another very common superstition. Families end up in endless rituals, rather than focusing on medical treatment, delaying the recovery process. This kind of lack of senses, understanding about mental health issues need to be handled urgently. This is huge work but is very difficult and important. As some expert had said, ‘It is extremely difficult to treat the wrong and incorrect views towards mental illness, than the mental illness itself’.

Hope on the occasion on World Mental Health week this October, this blog, helped to understand it little bit better. Let’s come together and work towards making society better.