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Stigma key reason why mental health not being addressed:

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Stigma attached to mental ailments is the main reason why the society is struggling to address the problem, and the day we together manage to tide over it and bring awareness, we will "win this battle," actress Deepika Padukone today said.

The 30-year-old actress, who herself battled depression, was speaking here at the launch of a nationwide campaign to bring awareness about psychological disorders, on World Mental Health Day.

"It is important to realise that the kind of society we live in today, we have become very competitive, and drilled into it, which is a good thing, but, I also think, we have become a little less sensitive to people around us...No one should feel that they do not belong to society," she said.

Sharing her personal struggle with depression, Deepika broke down during the function, and said, it is important that there is a supporting ecosystem of family and friends that allows the suffering person to cope with the disorder with hope and dignity.

"When I shared my story first, I did not feel any stigma or shame attached to it. And, the reason I came out in the open about it was because I just did not want to feel what I was feeling, I did not let depression to get the better of me," she said.

"So, I think the root cause is stigma. And the day we as a society can together get over that stigma and bring awareness about mental health issues, we will win this battle," she added.

The campaign has been jointly launched by Indian Psychiatric Society, Indian Medical Association and Deepika's Bengaluru-based non-profit foundation, the Live Love Laugh Foundation (TLLLF), under which they would develop outreach programmes to highlight the urgent mental health challenges that India faces.

Deepika, who recently had also become the brand ambassador of the Indian Psychiatric Society, said the campaign was dedicated to all those people who have survived mental illness.

Asked if social media was creating psychological pressure on celebrities, she said, "It is important to nurture, nourish and protect ourselves...And, I wouldn't share what I do about it, as it depends on person to person. But, as my father told me, 'focus on thing in your control and not fret over things which are out of your control'."

India is home to the largest number of mental health patients in the world with at least 50 million Indians estimated to be undergoing depression at any one point in time, according to the Society's President Dr G Prasad Rao.

A special video and poster campaign, "#DobaraPoocho" (ask again) was also unveiled on the occasion. "We decided to be part of the campaign so we have volunteered and given our support. Deepika could have kept it all to herself, but she shared her struggle and turned it into a movement," CEO, McCann Worldgroup India, Prasoon Joshi said.


Deepika says the whole issue is a vicious cycle but "I believe still there is hope".

"After I came out about my battle with depression, I felt good to see full-page article being written about mental disorders in newspapers...And, I had anyway told myself that by raising awareness, even if we could save one life then it would have served the purpose."

IMA's Aggarwal said that to compensate for lack of psychiatrists in the country, the general practitioners must be trained to have basic understanding of mental health issues.

Meanwhile, a survey released today by a city-based institute says 80 per cent people felt it was stigma that prevented theme from seeking treatment.

The study, conducted by Cosmos Institute of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences (CIMBS), examined general attitudes and perceptions about mental health. The study covered 529 subjects from the general public from across Delhi-NCR, from age groups ranging from 18-62.

"80 per cent opined that bias and stigma were the leading causes that prevented people from seeking any treatment. 85 per cent thought mental illness was made worse by stigma," it says.

94 per cent thought not enough was being done to remove stigma from mental illness.

Dr Sunil Mittal, Senior Psychiatrist and director of CIMBS, says, "Even in metro cities, less than half of the people affected by psychiatric disorders receive adequate treatment. Mental illness continues to be shrouded in an air of secrecy and guilt."

Stigma surrounding mental illness is a continuing problem that mental health experts and patients have battled for long.

Pranav Mittal, a lawyer who has worked on mental health policy reform and a coordinator of the study, says, "An astounding 89 per cent respondents felt that those with psychiatric illness were more likely to be ridiculed, discriminated against, or looked down upon in society.

"63 per cent said mental illness made it difficult to lead a life of dignity. This likely explains why 80 per cent thought biases and stigmas were so severe that they prevented people from seeking treatment.

First Published: Mon, October 10 2016. 17:22 IST