Friends, 2017 has arrived in bridal makeover.
Can we make it one of “Hope and Pride” for all “Mentally Ill” in India.
It will help conquer age-old societal stigma and discrimination against Mental Illness.
Yes we can.
-if all sufferers and care-givers (family and institutions) make a Collaborative Umbrella.
And let the war start with simple powerful tools-
Accepting, Owning-up, Opening-up and Talking Mental Illness
And here is why?
We the people of Indian Nation, suffering from Mental Illnesses (or caregivers with family members or friends suffering) have for long kept our pain personal.
Prevailing societal attitude that thrives on stigma and discrimination against mental illness forces us to “bolt the truth about our existence inside the Sad Tower of Silence”.
It need not be.
It is time for “biggest and boldest Change India has seen”.
And this change has to start from within-Let us start collaborative crusade, and make 2017, the Year of Change for us and our family members or friends suffering from Mental Illness in India.
Yes we Can.
We sufferers of Mental Illness, Mental Disorders, Madness, Sadness, Insanity or Lunacy (pick your words as all these are the way mentally ill are profiled in India) are not small in number-
“we are nearly 10 Crore Indians suffering from one or other Mental Illnesses.”
Not all of us can own-up or open about your illness but my conservative number for those who can open up is- ten thousand by 6th August (the Erwadi Memorial Day) and 25000 by 10th October (world Mental Health Day)
A national collaboration started by few of us can change the world- but let us join in droves.
The time has come that we together-Accept, Own-up, Open-up and talk about our Mental illness – And together we Celebrate the Year 2017 as one of “Hope & Pride for Mentally Ill”
Before I come to my story of personal Glasnost, let me aggregate here the list brave hearts Indians who are working for decades individually or collectively to to change life of mentally ill. I salute them.
I first salute sufferers of mental illness, ordinary Indians who in recent years have opened up about their own illness and taken to the cause of mental illness. I have come cross more than two hundred such brave hearts who have accepted their mental illness on one or other public platform and i intend to chronicle their name here as well as on a separate page and urge you to make the list grow exponentially as move forward. As starter i am adding just one name here-yours truly, and more as we build up brick by brick.
I also salute some brave heart celebrities who in last two years or so have made their brush with mental illness public and embraced the cause of speaking for Mental Health in big way-the list includes
- Deepika Padukone noted Actor opening up about her having went through a phase of debilitating depression. She decided to open up about her illness in print and visual media and today works tirelessly in the field of Mental Health. Here is her one hour interview to Barkha Dutt on NDTV on 22nd March 2015 ( http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/full-transcript-lets-talk-depression-deepika-padukones-story-748527)
- Yo Yo Honey Singh famous singer who in 2016 went public about his difficult days fighting debilitating bipolar disorder and alcoholism (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/hindi/music/news/Yo-Yo-Honey-Singh-I-must-confess-that-I-was-bipolar-and-an-alcoholic-It-was-scary/articleshow/51395959.cms)
- Shama Sikander TV actor as year 2016 was coming to close went public about her Bipolar Disorder and her having attempted suicide because of the Mental Illness http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/tv/news/hindi/shama-sikander-five-years-ago-i-attempted-suicide-because-of-bipolar-disorder/articleshow/56184642.cms?TOI_browsernotification=true
- Few more celebrities like Manisha Koirala, Shahrukh Khan, Ileana Dcruz, Randeep Hooda, Anuskha Sharma have chosen to speak about their temporal brush with depression, anxiety etc but so far they are not in the vanguard to be openly public about the extent of suffering and the extent to which they espouse the cause of Mental Health (https://www.scoopwhoop.com/Celebrities-Who-Talked-About-Mental-Illnesses/#.iq5zv8tn7)
A celebrity talking about their mental illness, does comfort lesser mortals and in its way works to reduce stigma about the mental illness.
There are others who have made changing life and times of Mentally Ill including of those at the bottom of the pyramid (the destitute and the homeless) the very purpose of their life. Some of them are discussed here. The list that follows is incomplete and indicative, all are requested to join the movement and go on freely adding to the list both of institutions and individuals, in all the categories- those suffering from mental illness having gone public, those caregivers who have gone public and institutions and individuals who have been working tirelessly to make difference to mentally ill.
Here it goes-
- Vandana Gopikumar and Vaishnavi Jaikumar Co-Founders of Banyan, Chennai have selflessly over last three decades empowered thousands of Mentally ill destitute women to lead normal life, many of who themselves have become champion of Mental Health and do openly discuss about their own experience of long brush of living with mental illness. Banyan and BALM (Banyan Academy for Leadership in Mental Health) are in true sense path-finders and leaders of Mental Health in India.
- Mukul Chandra Goswami co-founder of ASHADEEP (Mental Health Society), Guwahati pioneered Mental Health Movement in North-East of India. His inspiration was severe Mental Illness of his own sister and he has empowered thousands mentally ill in his own way. A book on empowered Mentally Ill by Ashadeep was released in 2011 funded by Tata Trusts. Mukul Goswami for his pioneering work was awarded prestigious Padma Shree by President of India in 2014
- Dr. Jagganath Wani a naturalized Canadian citizen of Indian origin and recipient of Highest Civilian Canadian Award and Professor Emeritus of Statistics and Actuarial Science at the University of Calgary was one of the early Indians who took to the cause of Mental Illness. Pune based Schizophrenia Awareness Association was his brain child. He also was amongst first Indians to have gone public about his wife suffering from incurable Schizophrenia. Today SAA is ably managed by Mr. Amrit Bakshy its President and other colleagues. Mr. Amrit is himself dedicated to the cause that first started with his own role as a care giver to his daughter suffering from Mental Illness.
I am in know of more than fifty Indian institutions and more than two hundred individuals who have been working ceaselessly to change life and time of mentally ill in India and over a period of time above list will be populated as a separate page.
I also separately have a list of more than hundred ordinary Indians who have ‘DARED TO BARE’ the Existential Truth of their suffering from one or other Mental Illness. This post exhorts people suffering from mental illness to come forward “Own, Open-op and Talk” about their Mental Illness.
The virtual chain so created will add up to a large number of warriors who are ready to fight the noble cause- of de-stigmatization and de-discrimination.
Here is when, where and how and why I Opened Up-hope it will help let us start making Indian stories. Just remember- your story will not only empower you it will empower hundred others
Here is my story of Glasnost of my existential suffering from incurable but manageable “Manic Depressive Insanity”. Doctors today call it Bipolar Disorder, but I prefer the nomenclature given by Emil Kraepelin father of psychiatry in 1999.
It was Circa 2000. New year had just begun. Thousands miles away from Indian shores, I was introspecting, reflecting and speaking in the “The Last Class” of my “Masters in Management” course a day before graduation at Asia’s famed business school Asian Institute of Management (AIM), Manila, Philippines. Suddenly, my peers and professors present in the Lecture Hall got confused, and flabbergasted and eerie silence pervaded as I opened up about my three-year tryst with 1998 diagnosis of one suffering from debilitating bipolar disorder that had crippled life as i oscillated between “catatonic and comatose depression” and “flames of splintering mania” and which had forced me thrice to go on the cliff of almost having killed myself from three suicide attempts gone horribly wrong. I had entered AIM in deep depression and was passing out while in throes of manic high.
Talking about a year lived Dangerously at Manila I knew I was opening Pandora’s Box. But had no clue about consequences of such openness i.e. the “Collateral Damage” to me and the family of the “Glasnost” -nonetheless it was a deliberate life decision of living life on my terms with full disclosure about my mental illness both in private discourse and public conduct.
At that time it was not a fashion of talking about one mental illness. Stigma ran so deep about mental disorders that people seldom talked even in private about their existential crisis. But unfettered my mad-mind pursued the openness doggedly soon there after on return to India. Needless to say, between 1997 and 2000, i lost nearly 1000 days to the illness but at no point of time i considered it necessary keep my illness warped in secrecy. As my own health became manageable (it does not get cured) and as my remission got elongated i took up to the cause of helping those accursed similarly but were less lucky than me in life. And I found such people in dozens even in personal life.
But I found it was not going far. So in on 31st August 2008 I created a blog-site named “Bipolar Stroke” to create awareness about Mental Illness (read http://akhileshwarsahay.blogspot.in/2009/11/when-roller-coaster-life-is-turned.html ) and took up the cause of talking about Mental Illness in workshops, conferences, schools and colleges)
But it was not going much far- it was then that I agreed to allow a young journalist to do a story on my life sufferings from Bipolar Disorder and thence came http://www.livemint.com/Home-Page/N3HhIzcx9wn45FAY11imUN/Akhileshwar-Sahay–Life-lessons-from-one-man8217s-fight.html
And it turned total life disrupter. Thereafter my life laced with Bipolar disorder is documented and is available on mere googling of my Name.
Why I spoke aloud when I spoke about my Mental Illness.
Well it was to start 100 Year war to take stigma out of Mental Illness.
It was 2009. Opening up about mental illness was not a fashion then. It is not even now.
But will you join the long war. Open up friends. Let us- own, open and talk”
And let us celebrate 2017 as “Year of Hope and Pride for Mentally Ill” in India