The News Minute's Ramanathan S won the SCARF Media Award for Mental Health 2018 on Thursday for his article, "When doctors turn gatekeepers: Indian transgender community's battle for mental health." The story explores how trans people are prone to mental health problems due to the social stigma and the biological upheaval during the medical gender affirmation process. It further tackles how their suffering is worsened when mental health professionals fail them.
The other winners of the award are Jyoti Shelar from The Hindu; Disha Shetty, a freelancer writing for The Wire; and Maheswari and Usha from Kumudam.
This story was part of a larger TNM Delve series on mental health in India. Ramanathan also reported and wrote a two-part story for the series that looks into how our present-day model of psychiatry strips away individuals' rights. The first deals with India’s mental health burden and how overmedication could be destroying the minds of the mentally ill. The second part is about the often purposefully-ignored idea of informed consent among the mentally ill, and how alternative therapies are helping them.
In a wide range of conversations with people of the trans community and activists, TNM detailed the struggles faced by trans men and women because of mental health professionals who fail to understand gender and sexuality, and show a consistent lack of empathy for the trans community. Mental health professionals are often responsible for creating barriers in the process of gender affirmation.
"Being transgender is not a disease or a disorder, although transgender persons are prone to mental illnesses due to social stigma, and could suffer from 'gender dysphoria,'" the story notes.
SCARF, an acronym for Schizophrenia Research Foundation, and the Press Institute of India created the award for Mental Health Reporting in 2012 to "encourage more journalists to write on mental health-related issued in an attempt to reduce the stigma in the society," according to its website. SCARF is a non-profit, non-government organisation in Chennai that was founded in 1984 by philanthropists and mental health experts.
The award ceremony will be held on Thursday at SCARF India in Anna Nagar, Chennai. The award comes with a small cash prize, which Ramanathan will be donating towards mental health services for transgender persons.
Read the full story here.
Here are the other stories on mental health from the TNM Delve series: