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Psychiatry - A Social Stigma!

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Psychiatry - A Social Stigma! By Dr. Harsha Gopisetty News paper headlines stating 'Death of 25 mentally-ill patients, charred beyond recognition, in a devastating fire which engulfed their thatched hostel, pathetically chained to their cots in Ervadi Mental Hospital in Tamil Nadu' and on the other extreme 'States like Haryana do not have a mental hospital' is very revealing of the neglected state of approach to the mentally ill in India. One wonders! Why it is so? When all other sciences have made such great advances in India, Psychiatry has made virtually no headway, and is in a very nascent state. The first Department of Psychiatry with outpatient facility in a general hospital in India was opened on 1st May 1933, at the then Carmichael Medical College, now known as R. G. Kar Medical College, in Kolkata. The traditional approach to the care of the mentally ill during the last 200 years was custodial, rather than therapeutic. This approach to "Psychiatric Care Delivery System" was introduced in India from Britain. Mental hospitals were established in isolated areas, often on the outskirts with the object of segregating the patient as troublesome and dangerous to their neighbors. The overriding concern was to protect the citizens without regard for appropriate care and cure of the ailing patients. As a consequence of this objective of the mental hospitals, the quality of care in such hospitals had been very poor. ...read more.


(b) Obsessive Compulsion Disorder or OCD--is an obsession to keep repeating actions, like obsession to keep washing hands frequently, or repetition of words and phrases over and over. 2. Mood Disorders---are due to depression and bipolar disorder (or manic depression) symptoms, include mood swings, etc. 3. Dementia--- is the loss of mental functions, including memory loss and a decline in intellectual and physical skills. 4. Eating Disorders (self starvation)---when people have a preoccupation with food, and an irrational fear of becoming obese. 5. Schizophrenia---- is a serious disorder that affects a persons thinking, feeling, and action. These are caused by chemical imbalances and produce symptoms like hallucinations, delusions, withdrawal, incoherent speech, and impaired reasoning. One would agree with this broad outline of the mental illness, as to how many of us would place one into some of the most common disorders? It would not be the truth if you said that none of these characteristics ever existed in your life at some point or the other. Let me admit, I being a Psychiatrist suffers from mild dementia at times, and have an OCD for cleanliness. So one thing is clear, mental illness can strike anyone, and does strike everyone. It knows no age limits, economic status, race, creed or color. During the course of a year, more than 54 million Indians are affected by one or more mental disorders, which may not always be a very serious disorder like Schizophrenia, but could be a mild form of schizophrenia as well. ...read more.


It was observed by me in Britain, they have definitely progressed a lot in this area of medicine, and the patient recovery rate is definitely very much higher compared to the ratio in our country. They have in Britain a very good network of care programme available, sadly lacking in India. We continue to blame Britain for having given us the custodial rather than the therapeutic method of curing, rather than changing and progressing with the times. Britain has made tremendous advances in this field, while we still consider it a stigma even to be referred to a psychiatrist. Mental illness is just another biological or sociological problem, which needs to be dealt with on time, before it's too late, by a specialist. It needs to be understood that it is as natural as cancer or AIDS, but can be worse and a living hell for those who are the victims of this illness, and not treated in time. When we can give all the care and attention to other medical problems, and can go campaigning for them; then its time to look at this aspect of illness with same enthusiasm. We cannot afford to neglect this illness. We need more voluntary involvement, and have a better infrastructure developed to build a better future for every person who is suffering, and who is prone to suffer with the current mode of life of high stress and competitions. ...read more.

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