CONFRONTING SCHIZOPHRENIA? FIGHT BACK! By Kanika Jaggi from Symbiosis Law School, Pune
“Schizophrenia cannot be understood without understanding despair.”
- R. D. Laing
Schizophrenia can manifest differently in every person. There cannot be a straitjacket formula to understand this phenomenon nor can there be a pre-defined prescription for the same. The human brain is a complex organ and functions differently in every other person. However, there is a minimum standard behavior and a social norm set that is expected to be followed by the society. In case there is an aberration from the benchmark, a person is declared to be abnormal and is secluded without understanding the psychology behind it. Any sign of deviating from the expected and usual, emotionally and behaviorally, is viewed with a sense of horror. A stigmatic stereotype is attached to the people living outside the set social norms. Mental illness is viewed as a kind of disability.
In order to comprehend the ordeals that people having schizophrenia go through, we need to understand the science behind it. It is a chronic psychological disorder that affects how you think, feel and behave. Statistics reveal that around 1 in 100 people are affected by this disorder. It may be rooted in genetics, environment, brain chemistry, substance use or a combination of these. Symptoms causing schizophrenia can be easily spotted, which can be categorically labeled ‘positive’, ‘negative’ and ‘cognitive’. The most common symptom is hallucination. Other symptoms include delusions, paranoid delusions, muddled thinking, feeling of being controlled and other negative symptoms including feeling demotivated, losing interest in life and despising social gatherings.
Treatments include antipsychotic medication, specialist psychological therapies and community support programs. Consulting a doctor and starting medication at the earliest is the most attractive option that one must resort to. Other aids such as joining a community support group might be equally helpful. Social rehabilitation in the form of support from friends and family and counseling are also very important.
The existence of mental disorders is uniform across geographical borders. According to an article published by the National Center for Biotechnological Information, the prevalence of schizophrenia is about 3/1000 individuals. The degree of fear of seclusion is higher in India. Fearing solitude and being looked down upon, people undergoing such disorder do not come clean. They prefer confining themselves to the four walls as a result of the fear of being called ‘crazy’. Those with limited means fear that the mentally ill person will become a burden. Gradually, it becomes difficult for a person with a history of mental illness to lead a normal life, socially and professionally. Psychiatrists believe that it is this fear that causes more than 50% of cases to go unreported. In rural India, due to ignorance and illiteracy, people believe that such disorders to be cases of possession by evil spirits. Consequently, faith healers have set businesses in the rural areas.
The Supreme Court of India, while dealing with divorce petition, stated that temporary ill-health including schizophrenia, a mental illness, which is curable, cannot be a ground for divorce under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Further, the court stated that ‘Schizophrenia is a treatable, manageable disease, which can be put on a par with hypertension and diabetes.’
The World Health Organization Mental Health Atlas 2014 states that levels of public expenditure on mental health are very low in low and middle-income countries. However, recently India has made efforts to improve the quality of care available in the country and made arrangements to monitor the implementation of the same. The National Human Rights Commission regularly reviews the activities of all mental health care institutions. In the year 2014, India came up with a National Mental Health Policy. The vision of the policy includes de-stigmatization and desegregation and socio-economic inclusion of persons affected by mental illness.
India is moving towards a positive direction in embracing its strengths as well as weaknesses. However, in respect of the impugned subject, abuse and violation of rights by family members and hospital authorities cannot be ruled out. The rehabilitation of patients poses a further challenge.
 Murthy, Srinivasa, Living with schizophrenia in India: Gender Perspectives, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3233233/ Last accessed on: 18.07.17
 Banerjee, Poulomi, Voices in their heads: How India deals with mental disorders, http://www.hindustantimes.com/health-and-fitness/voices-in-their-heads-how-india-deals-with-mental-disorders/story-a64Jhyk4o72k6SV1Ke7WdJ.html Last accessed on: 18.07.17
 Kollam Chandra Sekhar v. Kollam Padma Latha, 2013 (4) CDR 905 (SC)
 World Health Organization, Mental Health Atlas, http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/178879/1/9789241565011_eng.pdf?ua=1&ua=1 Last accessed on: 18.07.17
 National Mental Health Policy of India, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, October 2014, https://www.nhp.gov.in/sites/default/files/pdf/national%20mental%20health%20policy%20of%20india%202014.pdf
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