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- Living Proof: Telling Your Story to Make a Difference
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- A Conversation with Gayathri Ramprasad
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By Gayathri Ramprasad
by Sunita Sohrabji on March 20, 2014
On Apr. 30 1989, Portland, Oregon resident Gayathri Ramprasad found herself secluded in a psychiatric ward for the second time while she was pregnant with her second child.
In her keynote luncheon speech Mar. 7 here at the annual “Tools for Change” mental health awareness conference, Ramprasad — who has struggled with depression and suicidal ideation since she was a teenager growing up in Bangalore — told a packed audience that her involuntary “imprisonment” at the psych ward was an epiphany.
The experience of being stripped bare, both literally and metaphorically, was Ramprasad’s awakening from the semi-conscious, over-medicated state in which she had lived for the past 11 years. The Indian American woman said she was “transformed” as she saw for the first time people like herself who were also struggling with mental illness.
“It set me free beyond the limitations of my illness. As I was locked up, I began to think about bringing hope to others like me,” said Ramprasad, who went on to found Asha International, which aims to create awareness about mental health issues in the U.S., Singapore and India. Since its launch in 2006, Asha International has impacted the lives of 30,000 people, according to Ramprasad.
Earlier this month, Hazelden Press released “Shadows in the Sun,” Ramprasad’s elegantly-penned memoir about her struggles with depression and suicidal ideation beginning in young adulthood and through the birth of her second daughter. The writer grew up in Bangalore, which she characterized as “the suicide capital of the world.”
More than 450 million people around the world struggle with some form of mental illness, stated Ramprasad, citing data from the World Economic Forum. Mental health disorders have emerged as the single largest health cost, averaging about $6 trillion globally per year.
“Every 40 seconds, we lose a human being to suicide. The stigma surrounding mental illness and our reluctance to seek treatment is literally killing us.”
“It’s time to break the silence around mental illness and start the conversation,” said Ramprasad, adding, “Metal illness is the only illness we treat not with sympathy but with handcuffs.”
Last year, India-West published a groundbreaking story about young adults in the Indian American community struggling with mental health issues. The article received commendations from mental health professionals and many readers for bringing about awareness of a “taboo” topic. During her keynote address Mar. 7, Ramprasad presented a slide of that story and praised this publication for starting a conversation on an under-discussed issue.
In India, 70 million people are suffering from some form of mental illness, and up to five million people need treatment which requires hospitalization, according to Ramprasad. But the country only has 25,000 beds available to treat the mentally ill, and only one psychiatrist for every 400,000 people. Continue reading the article at India West.