November 18, 2014

What If People Treated Physical Illness Like Mental Illness?

There is a huge stigma and ignorance about Mental illness. And it's not just the Indian society. Patients, even in developed societies suffer from the same fate. It's difficult to open up because no one understands you. As physical illness is more visible, people can empathize. But for someone who has always lived a normal, happy life, it's difficult for him to understand how anyone can stay depressed. It must be the person's fault.

The truth is, Mental suffering can be as painful as physical pain. If someone close to you wants to talk about it, don't trivialize his problems. Listen to him. Give him an emphatic ear. Try to put yourself in his shoes before reacting. That's all he needs from you.

[Side note: If you want to know what Empathy actually means, please watch this beautiful short video ]


Huffington Post published this cartoon about people's reaction if they treated physical illness same as mental illness. Gives you something to think about. 

[Link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/13/mental-illness-physical-i_n_6145156.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000063]

6 comments:

sachin said...

Loved the cartoons. As a GP, I would love to put it to practice straight away- (I might get lynched- on second thoughts!)..

sachin said...

Tanveer, Read the post below: an adjuster (a plastic device to be put into mouth) is being given to a pws: could it be that conditions with (huge proportion of) mental component are being treated as a physical problem? Reverse of the above scenario?: "you stammer because your tongue is not in right position: slip this adjustor in your mouth before presentations!"..

Tanveer Khan said...

Thank you for your comment, Sir. I have only recently developed an active interest in the field of psychology and I have little knowledge about how mental ailments are actually treated. But I think you are right, Mental illness is sometimes treated like physical illness.

My father,too, is a doctor and I've seen him treat patients by isolating the ailment from the other aspects of the individual. If someone comes down with a fever, he won't need the complete biography of the individual to treat him. He can focus on the fever and treat it in isolation. He doesn't even need to show compassion to treat the patient. Physical illness usually do not need a complex background of reasons to emerge.

As I see it, mental ailments are quiet different from physical illness. Mental ailments, usually, do not emerge on their own. There could be complex environmental reasons behind them. Sometimes there is a history of abuse, neglect, or unresolved conflicts. Depression is not simply an imbalance of brain chemicals. We have to look at the factors which led to depression and address them. In my own case, I would probably have never developed anxiety and a negative approach towards stuttering had I been brought up in a healthy, nurturing environment. Medication will only give short term relief. Mental illness, to a large extent, is the problem of society. Societal factors contribute to a large extent, and therefore the society has to come together to solve these problems.

I volunteer at this online community where people come to talk about their problems anonymously. I've talked to people with relationship problems, anxiety disorders, depression, and even serious problems such as bi-polar disorder. It saddens me that they can't trust anyone in their real life to talk about their problems. Many of them tried but usually people don't understand. We, as a society, need to create a comfortable and open environment which enables people to come out and talk. We need to see the human being who has developed this problem and not isolate the ailment to treat it. We need more empathy.

Tanveer Khan said...

Having said that, Medication does become necessary in some serious cases. There are cases where people brought up in normal, healthy environment develop problems. Even then, I think they will respond better when they are provided with psychological support along with medication.

Tanveer Khan said...

..and it's the same I believe about stammering. We cannot isolate Stammering as a speech problem. We have to focus at all the factors which contribute to it.

Tanveer Khan said...

Haha, the comments are piling up!

I found this article relevant to this discussion.

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/mind-guest-blog/2014/11/17/why-we-need-to-abandon-the-disease-model-of-mental-health-care/