The word ‘mad’ is used to abuse, insult, taunt and to ostracise. It is used to forcibly bunch together an entire spectrum of mental illnesses, shun the individual who lives through the condition, and to deny much needed care.
On World Mental Health Day 2019, The Banyan, a mental health NGO in Chennai, organised a march by those who are termed 'Mad' by the society. These men and women wear their psychological and mental health issues proudly on their sleeves.
FIT joined these ‘mad’ people, to get you their stories.
Caste based violence at work pushed Tamilzharasan into schizophrenia. An engineering graduate, the illness destroyed his career and debilitated him. He is now recovered, and works as a civil engineer in a housing project.
No one knows what triggered Senthil Priya's illness. But it took her years to recover. What helped her most, was cooking. She derives great pleasure from it, and it gives her personal meaning. And of course, she's brilliant at it! Just head to the Nalam canteen at The Banyan for a smoothie or sandwich to find out.
Meet Chennamma. She endured physical, mental and verbal abuse by her own family and was driven to homelessness. After rehabilitation, she refused to return to her family. After taking on a number of odd jobs to fend for herself, she now works as a healthcare worker at the ECRC and lives independently in a shared home. She now has friends to call her own. She has reclaimed her dignity, respect and her identity.
Illness had become a part of Rathi's life. She was forced to subsist in a toxic marital relationship that worsened her mental health. Her family life crumbled. She finally decided to walk out her abusive relationship, and sought treatment. She is now a vocational trainer, no more reticent and shy.
Dhanalakshmi is the first Malala award recipient in Chennai. She’s a vocational trainer in St Mary’s school for disadvantaged women today. She survived domestic abuse, homelessness, prolonged illness and total ostracism.
Dr Seshadri is a former psychiatrist at Apollo hospitals. More than lack of awareness about mental health, there’s WRONG knowledge, he says. “Mental illness can’t be cured. Treatment is highly risky. You can never return to society” and so on. This march should have been held fifty years ago! Better late than never!’
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