Deal with mental health; don’t lock it away

Who could have thought that the innocently sexy Jiah Khan of Nishabdh would commit suicide? Also, who would have thought that a father would imprison his young daughter for three years? Or that a son would keep his father chained like a dog on his terrace? Medical science may be on the path of discovering how the human mind functions but our attitudes towards mental health remain in medieval times.

Jiah Khan seemed to have the world at her feet when she stepped into Bollywood with what many would call a dream debut. But as her dream of stardom shattered and her personal relationship floundered, death seemed the only way out. It speaks volumes about our entire family and social system that a young girl should be so disheartened and find no help around her. Our success driven system seems to thrive only on achievers. There is no place for second place. Jiah herself is reported to have said that everyone around her kept reminding her of her failures.

In a world where the Catherine Zeta-Jones’ voluntarily check into mental health facilities to ‘regain their balance’, there are still Jiah Khan’s whose inability to cope with depression drives them to desperation. I am sure that all Jiah needed was a lot of support from family and friends, a good psychiatrist and a realization that there is more to life than a boyfriend who is struggling with his own career related demons. So what if you could not make it good as an actor, Jiah, life is so much more than just what you do for a living. Jiah would certainly have benefited from a Michael Doughlas type supportive person in her life who would have helped her instead of judging her.

As for the Bangalore father who locked up his daughter for years and the son who chained his father – all I can say is that they are the ones who need psychiatric help and not the other way round. I mean what kind of human beings can commit such inhuman acts! So what if your father is peeing in your drawing room? Babies do it all the time. And haven’t these people heard of adult diapers? For a man to lock up his young daughter reeks of issues that definitely require psychiatric treatment.

I had met a wonderful couple from California a few years back. The Staglins – Garen and Shari – own a vineyard in Napa Valley. Their son, Brandon, was diagnosed with schizophrenia. This was not the end of the world for any of them. No one was kept locked up or chained. Instead, this situation led to the creation of the International Mental Health research Organisation with the aim of creating awareness about mental health, removing stigma and funding research into the understanding of how the human mind works. Brandon is director of marketing communication at the Staglin vineyards.

We really need to step out of the Medieval Ages and look at mental health issues as something we can deal with, not brush under the carpet.

Soni Sangwan has reported on Delhi-warts and all- for several years. She is now a Journalist-in-Retirement, dividing her time between watching her two-year-old daughter grow and seeing the city she loves evolve
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