ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Role of Memoirs in Reducing the Stigma of Mental Illness in India

How reading about mental illness in the form of memoirs encourages us to reimagine our understanding and get past the popular stigmatised depictions of mental illness in India is explored in this article. This information can come to the aid of medical enthusiasts, psychologists, psychoanalysts, and even educators in considering the subjective dimensions of the experience of mental illness apart from the results of scientific inquiry and reducing the stigma of mental illness in India.

The author expresses their gratitude towards their PhD supervisor Abilash Chandran and Christ (Deemed to be University), Bengaluru for the support rendered by them.

Talking about mental illness is still taboo in most parts of India. Individuals with mental illness are often associated with fear, disgust, violence, and incurability (Somasundaram 2013). There is a general tendency among people to “otherise” people with mental illnesses, primarily because of the societal stereotypes and the discomforting image of the “mad” people portrayed in films (Time to Change 2017), television, and other mass media (Richmond 2014). According to a study, between 1990 and 2017, one in every seven people in India suffered from at least one mental illness (India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative Mental Disorders Collaborators 2020). However, due to the stigma associated with mental illness, a lack of awareness, and limited access to professional help, only 10%–12% of these sufferers seek help (World Economic Forum 2018). Nevertheless, the data on the stigma of mental illness in India is also limited (Gururaj et al 2016). In order to bring about a change in the attitude towards the mentally ill, people must get acquainted with the lived experience of the people labelled as “mad” in society. People must also be educated about mental health issues, and there must be public discussions on mental health.

Although there are numerous anti-stigma measures (Committee on Science of Changing Behavioral Health Social Norms 2016), memoirs being narratives based on personal experiences, can help to break stereotypes and misconceptions about mental illnesses. Memoirs can function as a source to educate and bring people in contact (indirectly) with the experiences of people with mental illnesses. How to Travel Light: My Memories of Madness and Melancholia by Shreevatsa Nevatia (2017) and I’ve Never Been (Un)Happier by Shaheen Bhatt (2018) are two memoirs that can help people get a look into the state of people with mental health issues in India.

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Updated On : 12th Jun, 2023
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