Features Saturday, March 21, 2015 - 05:30
Chitra Subramaniam| The News Minute| January 16, 2015| 9.50 am IST Deepika Padukone deserves a huge round of applause for telling the world she has been diagnosed with depression and is currently under counseling and treatment. If it was a friend’s suicide that stirred Padukone to seek counseling, it was Robin William’s suicide that led Anupam Kher to speak publicly about one of India’s worst kept secrets –depression and mental illnesses.  “I was unable to sleep, I thought it was an eye problem,” Anupam Kher told The News Minute (TNM). “But I was advised to see another doctor and the diagnosis was depression. Deepika has taken a very brave step and I applaud her courage,” he added. Kher sees a therapist once a month and recommends that all people who have issues to talk about not keep it bottled up but to speak to friends, but more importantly to family.  The World Health organization (WHO) says India leads in suicides around the world, with people in the age-group of 15-29 being the most hit. Another estimate says India will pay $4.58 billion in the next 15 years to treat mental health diseases. But beyond the numbers and the data, the cost of care and cure, there are lives that do not have to be cut short untimely because no one stood up or spoke up. It is not okay to say everything will be alright without a medical opinion.  “It was a struggle to wake up every morning…over a period of time it got worse,” Padukone told the Hindustan Times. “There were days when I would feel okay, but at times, within a day, there was a roller-coaster feeling. Finally I accepted my condition. The counseling helped but only to an extent. Then I took medication and today I am much better.” The first stumbling block that people with mental illnesses face is accepting the fact that they need professional help. Unnatural behaviour, mood swings, unable to complete normal work on time and strained inter-personal relations are some of the pointers that could suggest that the person is in need of assistance. Fear follows that realization – fear of society, fear of cost and fear of integrating in a society where people are expected to be happy and contended. Once people seek counselling the medical professional is able to move in and treatment and cure is available in addition to counselling.  Padukone and Kher have given a much-needed push to centre-staging mental health awareness and care in India, a subject which continues to be a taboo leading to a host of illnesses ranging from alcoholism to cancers. Unreported, untreated and in denial mental health illnesses cases cause deaths that could have been easily prevented. There is enough evidence to show that awareness and breaking down of dogmas and taboos play a critical role in bringing down this burden of disease.  Mental health today is where cancers were thirty years ago in the western world – people suffered in silence, women cried in private sometimes even afraid to tell their girlfriends they had the C disease. Thanks to some very robust action primarily in the United States of America (USA) packing the power of advocacy by famous Hollywood stars and politicians and resources for research and development, people are speaking about their conditions in the hope that others do not suffer in silence. More importantly, new remedies and treatments are available turning what was a death sentence ten years ago to hope. Angelina Jolie and Indo-Canadian actor Lisa Ray added their voice to cancer care recently. Famous Europeans are less given to speaking about their health condition, much like their Indian counterparts, but research on the continuous an unrelenting.  The recent Nobel Prize in Physiology (or medicine) to doctors who showed that the brain has its own system of navigation will certainly help break the stigma against mental diseases. Last year Hollywood star Robin Williams took his own life and it emerged subsequently that he was suffering from depression. In 2005, Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik demitted office due to depression, making him the first European politician in recent memory to do so.  Read- I took help for my depression and there's nothing wrong with asking for help: Anupam Kher In a recent interview to The News Minute (TNM), Dr. Sanjeev Jain at NIMHANS, Bangalore said stigma engendered by ignorance is a very big problem. “Improved knowledge of the disease process in other conditions – from tuberculosis to leprosy to epilepsy – have successfully reduced stigma.” Over sixty percent of deaths in India are due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) that range from cancers to cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), diabetes and mental health. The inclusion of mental health as an NCD was a move spearheaded by India. Depression is a risk factor for cardiac disease and diabetes, while chronic medical disease shortens the life-span of those with mental illness by almost two decades. “What this implies at the clinical and bedside level remains unclear, as the services for these NCD’s (hypertension and diabetes, depression and psychoses) have developed along divergent trajectories, and there is little planning at the moment as to how this synergy will be developed,” Dr. Jain said.  Feeling sad is not the same as being depressed. It is lonely at the top which is the tip of the iceberg. It is lonely everywhere when you are at the bottom. We at TNM salute Padukone and Kher for entering this debate at the very top and we wish them good luck and good health.  Full interview with Deepika Padukone here Full interview with Dr. Sanjeev Jain here Tweet Follow @thenewsminute