Deepika Padukone has opened up a conversation about mental health, but that’s just the beginning.
Over the last 24 hours our Twitter and Facebook feed has been deluged with mentions of Deepika Padukone’s open letter attempting to bring the issue of mental health out in the open.
In her letter, Deepika talks honestly about her own struggles with depression, and reiterates how it is important to address the disease that “one in four people suffer from”. She also reminds us that there is a difference between being “depressed” and being “sad”, and also attempts to remove the stigma around medication (“all you need is some fresh air and good thoughts” ) by admitting that she needed pills herself for a while.
It is easy to dismiss this as yet another master-stroke by a consummate PR team, but we can’t help being grateful to her for creating a platform where people can talk about mental health issues in the open. Her candour, one hopes, will convince at least a few families to seek support and help without ostracising the sufferers of a crippling affliction.
Are instances of depression rising in urban India, or are we just becoming more open when talking about it? We can’t help be reminded of a Daily Read we did a while back that looked at the links between increasing urbanisation and depression.
However, the overall attitude towards mental health in India remains strikingly old- fashioned. The cheery uncles who pat you on the back, the parents who ask their sons to ‘chin up’, and worst of all, the families that attempt to hide away the relatives with more debilitating mental conditions and psychosocial disorders.
The media brouhaha over Deepika’s justifiably lauded letter reminded us of a story from last month that didn’t receive quite as much coverage and is Your Daily Read for today, a Human Rights Watch Report that shone an unfavourable light on India’s mental hospitals and institutions and the way they treated women:
Women and girls with disabilities in India are forced into mental hospitals and institutions, where they face unsanitary conditions, risk physical and sexual violence, and experience involuntary treatment, including electroshock therapy. As one woman put it, they are “treated worse than animals.
The 106 page report goes on to report about multiple instances of women being arbitrarily detained in mental institutions, outlines the extreme conditions they are forced to live in thanks to overcrowding and a lack of hygiene in such facilities, as well as the forced therapies and treatments that are often meted out to them.
And yes, we are aware that depression and long-standing mental disabilities and disorders are strikingly different. But we can’t help hope that this brave letter by a public personality will help create a conversation around our overall attitudes towards mental health and treatments.
Read more from the HRW report here