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March 25, 2014
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- Living Proof: Telling Your Story to Make a Difference
August 19, 2015
- Healing From Depression: 8 Keys to Recover & Thrive
April 16, 2014
- A Conversation with Gayathri Ramprasad
February 25, 2014
- The Healing Power of Resurgence
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By Gayathri Ramprasad
To disclose or not to disclose one’s struggles with mental illness is a difficult question to answer. Persistent stigma and discrimination towards those living with mental illness, silences people into lives of shame, secrecy and needless suffering, thus sustaining the vicious cycle. Worries about who will give us admission to college, who will give us work, who will marry us, will our friends and families abandon us, further sustains the status quo. Despite these worries, when we disclose our struggles and embrace our truth, it will set us free to realize our fullest potential, and inspire others to set themselves free.
I recently returned home after a multi-city book tour across my home-country, India, and was deeply grateful for the opportunity to break the silence about mental illness and start the conversation about mental health. Millions of Indians struggle with mental illness, and many of them are victims of some of the worst abuses and indignities witnessed in modern times. Few of them receive the life-saving treatment and support they need. There are a mere 4,000 psychiatrists to serve a population of 1.2 billion people. In comparison, there are 50,000 psychiatrists in the U.S., about 4,500 in California alone. According to a recent report by the World Health Organization, India has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. A recent New York Times editorial painted a picture of a mental health crisis, especially among Indian youth, who have the highest suicide rate in the world - and suicide has surpassed maternal mortality as the leading cause of death of young Indian women.
According to a 2014 report by Human Rights Watch the stigma surrounding mental illness is especially punishing for Indian women: Instances of violence against women and girls with mental or intellectual disabilities including involuntary confinement, physical and sexual abuse, inhumane or degrading treatment, and excessive electroshock therapy remained particularly high in state-run and private residential care facilities, which lack adequate oversight. Within the family and community, women and girls with disabilities also experience violence, including involuntary sterilization.
Unfortunately, India is not the only country with a mental health system in crisis. It is systemic across the globe, including the richest country in the world, America.
Yet, amidst all the doom and gloom, there is hope. As India’s revered philosophy proclaims - satyamev jayate - truth alone triumphs. For decades, I struggled to answer the question about whether or not to disclose my struggles with anxiety and depression. Confined in the seclusion room of a psychiatric ward, stripped of freedom, dignity, hope and humanity, I finally chose to overcome my fears, and disclose my truth. Over the years, it has helped me thrive, and bring hope and healing to thousands of people struggling with mental illnesses around the world.
Three years ago, Archana, an young woman from Thane, India, contacted me. She had a loving husband, a successful career in the IT industry, and access to the best mental health care in India. Yet, after a decade long battle with depression, she had given up hope. Her biggest fear was to have a baby, and her biggest dream was to have a baby. I mentored Archana for a year via Skype. One day, one step at a time, she rebuilt her life with the help of her loving husband, Nikhil, and mental health providers. And, a year ago, she overcame her fears and realized her dream! She is now the proud mother of a beautiful little boy, whom I got to meet during my visit to Thane. And, much to my delight, Archana and her husband shared their struggles and triumph over depression at my book launch in Thane on December 19th. In sharing their truth, they are now empowering others in their community to seek help.
Disclosure has the power of set us free from the chains of stigma and discrimination. Disclosure has the power to empower others on their road to recovery. And, disclosure has the power to create a world of understanding, compassion and inclusion - one day, one person at a time - just like Archana and Nikhil are doing.
It is time for people struggling with mental illness and their families to emerge out of the shadows, and stand together in solidarity to advocate for their human rights and social justice. And, it is time for us as a global community to partner with them in their quest. It is time for all of us to STAND UP FOR MENTAL HEALTH.