From Internalising Stigmas To Transcending Mental Illness

Last Saturday, I and Jhilmil met at Vimhans. As part of Bhor poetry project, we were there to assess whether Vimhans, a well-known hospital that also had a mental OPD, in reality, could possibly be a habitat to invite poetry as part of mental therapy sessions. 

We tried contacting the director of Vimhans. Jhilmil had tried calling him before, but all she received was an out-of-office mail. Many of you may know since it’s out there in her biopic- Vimhans had been one of the mental institutions where Jhilmil was forcibly and wrongfully diagnosed as bipolar.

Vimhans had changed in last seven years. Jhilmil pointed out how it had been beautified.

An institution decorated with green climbers on white walls, a glass tunnel passage, a green garden with an open gym and a retro styled stairs going upstairs towards the terrace cafeteria. Such a beautiful structure containing people, suffering in the dark, getting treated,  medicated to get ‘better’ ? But all that inside that beautiful structure of a building.

I was actually excited to find that Vimhans actually supported different kinds of therapies; as from what I have heard, according to popular opinion, psychiatry didn’t quite harmonise with psychotherapy. The good news was that we got phone numbers of therapists who conducted such art therapies for mental patients and differently abled kids. I also appreciated the level of transparency at Vimhans.

Siddharth Ashvin Shah spoke about social stigmas around mental health

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From Vimhans, Jhilmil drove to the beautiful and oldest colony of Nizamuddin West, Delhi. It was an event organised by one of her friend where Siddharth Ashvin Shah, a well-known trauma recovery/stress management preventive physician who also taught psychosocial resilience was a guest speaker.

The topic was fighting social stigmas around mental health. He moved out the cliched talks of social stigmas.Very profoundly, he spoke of another kind of stigma that a sufferer could internalise. A sufferer at a point, himself/herself could start believing and living the very stigma society may wrongfully accuse him/her.

Accepting there is a problem is the first thing to destroy the stigma

It’s hard for the ‘can-do’ people to accept that some things they have done all their life have now become physically and mentally hard. Society tells them, ‘Yes, you have done this before, you can do this again.’

But the very idea of a mental illness is that it makes the simplest and most ordinary things hard in life. For someone suffering from depression, it’s hard to even get out of the bed the next morning.

If it’s hard for us to accept mental illness in ourselves, then I don’t think anyone else can make the society accept us with it.

Jhilmil, a spokesperson of anti-pharma, pointed out how in many cases, other ways of healing like therapies, exercise, love, acceptance and art can help in transcending the very illness one is fighting with.

Transcending the illness

However, each individual, each mind is suffering differently and perhaps, we need all help to feel better. Sometimes, medicines and a listening ear of a therapist may help you heal, or sometimes, you will need other ways to get better.

There is a need for balance, where both mind and body need to be healed. And at times, medicines only heal a part of your mind causing a lot of stress and side-effects on the body. Social stigmas stop us from taking all the help we can.

One thing most people who attended the event agreed on was-

Talking. Talk about it. Build your support group. Don’t keep it to yourself. Accept it and share it with the trusted ones. Hold hands and heal each other.

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