Saturday, 29 December 2012

You ought to take mental illness seriously

Acting in time may save your family from serious trouble
Ninad’s parents were very happy that Ninad was an independent child. The only son of working parents, Ninad used to be on his own during the day with an old grandmother at home. He was in the 11th Std and in college – the best college for science. He was a good boy, polite, obedient, a good student and a confident young lad. He was friendly and had an excellent relationship with his parents.
 However, lately, Ninad used to be quiet at home and not his usual self. He used to spend a lot of time in his room with his door shut according to his grandmother. His parents thought it was natural for a teenager, given the weird ways of this age. So the issue became a non-issue as soon as it had cropped up.Six months later, Ninad had to be admitted for de-addiction – he had become a drug addict.
This story is shocking, yet quite common. With working parents and the freedom and exposure children get, one never knows when even the so-called good kids give in to temptations and then succumb to them.
Could Ninad’s parents have stopped this? Can Ninad be helped?
The answer to both these question is a YES. Ninad’s parents could have stopped this much before, had they paid more attention to the change in his behavior – of locking himself in his room even when he was alone in the house, with only an old grandmother for company. Drug addicts or newcomers to the drug world usually hide behind closed doors to take a shot. After repeated indulgence, their behavior starts changing – they start becoming irritable, lost in their own world and start hiding – something. Like Ninad, there are many people, who are victims of substance abuse – drugs, alcohol and smoking. Like Ninad, there are many others, from our families, our near and dear ones who may be suffering from some other mental disorders. It could be anything - like depression, schizophrenia and anxiety and stress disorders. Initially though, most of these may sound harmless, but if not noticed and reported may balloon into disasters beyond our help.
Unfortunately, even if you may have noticed a change in behavior, you may choose to do nothing about it, just wishing it to go away. The bitter truth is that most people cannot accept mental illness amongst their kith and kin. They fear social stigma, after they have sought the help of a psychiatrist.  It is true that even in the modern age, the mentally ill are looked down upon by society as a nuisance and a disgrace to the family, community and therefore the larger society.
But what is more important to you, needs to be decided.
Is ‘what your neighbors say’ more important or ‘is your close one’s mental health’ more important to you?
If you don’t try and arrest the mental illness at an early stage, it can develop into something that may cause serious trouble to the one suffering from it and to his close ones.
We agree that you may not be able to ‘diagnose’ like a doctor and sometimes recognizing symptoms may be difficult or may result in a false alarm. If it is the latter, we will be only too happy, but if it is a positive diagnosis and the person is indeed suffering, you should be taking the first step to treat him and turn him around into a normal, fine person that he is.
What is crucial is to be alert so you can pinpoint a noticeable change in behavior. The next thing is to accept it and report it immediately to a psychiatrist. The mentally ill, just like the physically ill are in dire need of the right treatment at the right time and care from their family.
With the right help, the mentally ill can be turned into the mentally well.
We regularly have seminars on various mental illnesses to make you aware of things, of illnesses, their symptoms and how the mentally ill can be helped. The first one in the series will be on Anxiety and Depression. If you are interested in attending this seminar, do write to us at with the subject line as ‘Seminar on Anxiety and Depression’.