Asha Kiran – an apathy we should not allow to reoccur

Tattered rags, human excreta on floors, pungent smell across all nooks and an eerie mental healthatmosphere everywhere – this may have a resemblance with that of ’10 Days in a mad house’. Who knew that Swati Maliwal will relive the same sequences that Nellie Bly went through 130 years ago. Certainly, nothing has changed since then. Recent Asha Kiran apathy displays the same – a foundation for mentally challenged unfortunately stands like a monster untouched by judiciary.

What went wrong? Gross ignorance? Or bureaucracy? Or laid back attitude? Or simply stars working against humans? Asha Kiran questions every little ethic that we have learnt in our childhood. Approximately 60 million people in India face mental disorders according to a news report in ‘The Indian Express’. It is startling to realize that such a large number of people, who could otherwise have been actively resourceful in some field, are struggling to lead a normal and healthy life. Some of the major psychological problems that people suffer from include – bipolar disorder, depression, Schizophrenia, and anxiety. Some of these problems start from a level when it doesn’t seem alarming. But due to general ignorance about them at first, the symptoms escalate. It is extremely important to take action at an early stage.

In India, people have a tendency to ignore issues around mental illness and psychological problems. There is stigma attached to it so people try and avoid giving attention to it. Going around Indian cities, one may see mentally challenged people walking aimlessly often in filthy conditions. Many of them have been abandoned by their families as their people were either not able to afford the treatment or they didn’t want to face society with a mentally challenged family member.

As per a report featured in The Quint – More than 7 crore mentally ill people live in India and there are less than 4000 doctors to treat them: NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bengaluru). Isn’t that a sorry state? It is important to understand why things have screwed up so much?

A complicated lifestyle today demands too much from the common man – a demanding job beyond 9 to 6, a general expectation to put up a happy face round the clock, smartphone driven regime to fit in with society and much more. People are finding it difficult to deal with life transforming every so often. Coping with a fast changing lifestyle demands a lot from the mental stamina of people. Almost the entire younger population is running a race, trying hard to keep pace up with every other social athlete and often collapsing at the threshold.

Is it not possible to recover from this desperate and dismal situation? Asks the mind. Somewhere in this complex life, people are always looking out for good listeners. It is very crucial to listen to each other and understand what is going on within our minds, what is disrupting our peace and fueling our inability to relax. Each condition can be treated provided enough time is given and precautionary measures are taken. If society continues to treat it as taboo, or not a subject for public discussion, there are feeble chances of progress

Even cities are struggling having only a small number of psychiatric treatment and doctors. Imagine the plight of remote villages. Major facilities, which take in mentally challenged, are in disgraceful conditions. The American based Human Rights Watch says that there are places where patients are treated in inhuman conditions.

It is important to concentrate on the most constructive policies and programmes that the government can put in place and most importantly the efforts that families of the affected can put. Families that abandon their mentally challenged member should be helped to take some positive action.

Partha De (Kolkata) is a classic case of a society gone wrong, ignorant of issues within it or just ignoring them. It is a case of abandonment and excessive but irrational emotional attachment with sibling and pets. Patha De was found living with the decomposed body of his sister, charred body of his father, skeletons of his two pet dogs and food scattered around the house. The police officials found him feeding his ‘sister’. Had relatives or neighbors been connected or slightly concerned, possibly such a massive breakdown within a family and the consequence could have been kept at bay. Often such situations arise due to family disputes, sour relationship between parents, loss of a loved one, excessive loneliness, career crisis and other related issues. Partha’s case demonstrates an alarming rise of isolated lives in metropolitan cities.

It comes as a shock that educated people are succumbing to loneliness and they are unable to find good listeners. It is time, that society takes action. We should look around and evaluate if our near and dear ones are doing fine just not physically, but mentally too.

Why not start with those around us. Always check if someone in your circle has suddenly turned quiet, has become fussy with food, has stopped going out etc. These are signs that the person may be gradually sliding in the direction of depression or similar mental disorder. Moreover we should be vigilant about the centres. We need to make sure that apathy and indifference to mentally challenged human beings who are resident in institutions like Asha Kiran shouldn’t repeat again. Only unconditional love, compassion and empathy can bring a person back on tracks of happy life.




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