Mental illness and social boycott!!

  • By Team TDO

We tend to take the expression "the survival of the fittest" rather seriously. Just one look at the apathy towards those suffering from mental conditions is enough to fill one with disgust. The general lack of awareness about mental health makes it quite an uphill task for those recovering from mental ailments like depression, bipolar manic depression, schizophrenia, etc., to find any solace or comfort in a world that largely doesn't care and only stops to laugh and stare.

It isn't really surprising as social pressures and the fast pace of today's life have contributed immensely to mental strain, which only contributes to the higher incidence of mental ailments in all developed nations.

According to the statistics calculated by the World Health Organization in 2001, it is estimated that approximately 450 million people worldwide have a mental health problem.

Isn't this a huge number? Large enough for almost every educated person to be aware about the kind of mental conditions that are floating about right in his neighborhood. Most of us would shrug and say, “as long as it doesn't happen to us or our loved ones, we are OK!"

Is it really ok? That virtually three out of every ten people that you encounter are already suffering from a serious mental condition, or are likely to develop one at some point. Like any serious physical condition, mental conditions too can take a toll on an entire family.

We can forget about society being nice to the patient, how about starting right from home? Most times, bipolar depression and the likes go disguised in the form of aberrational behavior and the patient invariably suffers from conflicts at home. If he is lucky enough, he might get himself checked by a psychiatrist and then the hidden condition comes to light. It is ironic that a patient's family rather accept him for an alcoholic and a criminal than someone 'mental,' as there comes the uncomfortable question - where did that come from?

Depending on the seriousness of the mental condition, the sufferer might not be able to take care of himself or move about normally in society. An adult sufferer might not show any visible signs of depression, but is serious enough to be dysfunctional.

In these cases, the family must know all the repercussions of the illness and either be completely supportive of the patient's needs or be like the rest of the world and leave him to the mercy of his fate - half measures do not work in the rehabilitation of a mental patient. If a person is completely dysfunctional, then there is no option other than entrusting him to the care of a mental asylum and there is very little hope of recovery for some.

However, that doesn't mean those who don't need to be institutionalized are not in for a rough ride! For one, the medications prescribed like SSRIs, anti-depressants, anti-convulsants, etc., have side effects, and the family has to ensure that they maintain a harmonious atmosphere for at least maintaining the patient's delicate balance.

Most times, parents think that they have done their job by ensuring that the patient has his medication on time. If only it were that simple! The mentally afflicted cannot work or function like a normal person. He is going to find it difficult to get to work in a normal workplace sort of environment or even be social.

Often, those suffering from clinical depression are forced out of their recovery to continue work even when they don’t feel like it. It affects everything that they do - the way they carry themselves to the way they think. Moreover, if they are sneered at or made fun of at that precise point, it can greatly aggravate the problem. So to some extent we are responsible for perpetuating someone's mental agony.

Socially too there isn't much luck as the person is going to be somewhat inept and awkward when getting back to his circle of friends. Some try and be sympathetic towards him and make life somewhat easier; however, for most he is just a 'basket case' and could make him feel all the more lonely and bitter. This is when the patient can do something drastic to himself like commit suicide or something similarly serious.

Even if we are not remotely interested in mental health, we should ensure that we aid in the recovery, rather than make someone worse off. If there is someone with a known mental affliction, it would be well to lend the family your support, if that's the least you can do. Even talking to the person can ward off loneliness and pep him up. You can ask gently without appearing to be nosy as to what the problem is. If possible, you can help rehabilitate by making him feel welcome to be the part of your social circle, where you know he won't be judged or giving unnecessary sympathy. So being treated normally and respectfully is also an important aspect in recovery.

What the sufferer needs is to regain his confidence that he can be functional and normal again, and the last thing he needs is negative feedback or ridicule, which could irreversibly shatter whatever little self-esteem he might have. Even if we do our little bit to help that, it will go a long way into ensuring a smooth transition from the cuckoo's nest and back to a normal life again.