Looking beyond the social stigma

Caring Minds & the Indian Chamber of Commerce jointly organised an interactive session on 'Management of Mental & Developmental Disorders', which saw participation of doctors, educationists, psychologists, and professionals from multiple sectors on February 25.

Minister Dr Shashi Panja graced the occasion as the chief guest and Consul General (USA) Patti Hoffman was the guest of honour.

The ICC special abilities task force is led by Chairperson Minu Budhia (Founder-Director Caring Minds, ICanFlyy & Café ICanFlyy) and expert committee members Dr Sudha Kaul, Anu Puri, Nilima Ghosh, Sonu Mehmi, Iona Kundu and Renu Saharia.

The session highlighted the importance of understanding and accepting oneself, just as we are. Maintaining emotional and mental wellness is the key to living a healthy life, and we all need help and guidance to do this. There is no shame in seeking help and everyone could benefit from talking to a counsellor. The session ended on a positive note, asking the audience to not be shy about getting help about both their loved ones and themselves.

In her welcome address Minu Budhia said, "Sessions like these are essential to build a community that is equipped with education and awareness about the realities of

people with mental and developmental disorders, and is able to look beyond an ableist point of view to envision and develop new possibilities." Log kya kahenge/ loke ki bolbe /what will people say?–'There is no shame in seeking help and everyone could benefit from talking to a counsellor. So get help. Don't let yourself or your loved ones suffer,' Minu reemphasised.

"This event is a wonderful initiative by Minuji," said the Minister Dr Shashi Panja. "When it comes to acknowledging mental health issues, the evasive attitudes, the denial mode that leads to delay, the degrees of ignorance we carry, and the fear of stigma, all become a barrier to seeking mental healthcare," she added.

Panja touched upon the issue of adopting children with special needs and the importance of legislation like the Mental Health Act when it comes to creating and enforcing policies and programmes. She also spoke about government halfway homes for people with mental and developmental disorders who are no longer in need of institutional care but are unwelcome in their own homes.

Consul General Patti Hoffman said, "I applaud Minu Budhia & ICC to provide such a platform. Being healthy means both physical and mental wellbeing, and we need to normalise mental healthcare, and promote mental health as a critical part of general wellness." Sharing that anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental health issues in USA, she stressed on the importance of doing more, especially as mental health among the youth is worsening.

Esteemed expert Dr Manoj Shah (MD, Psychiatrist, USA) spoke on the role of the government,

the community, the educational institutes, and the family in the management of mental disorders and the need for trained professionals like psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, social workers, and the cost to society if we do not step up now.

Dr Prerna Shah (Ph.D, Neuropsychologist, USA) spoke on the importance of diagnosis,

educational interventions, short term and long term care, vocational training, social integration of

individuals with developmental disorders. She also elaborated upon the role of family, school, and society have to play to make a

positive impact.

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