I had great admiration for Ms. Deepika Padukone as an actor and that has now transformed into tremendous respect and admiration for her as a human being, for the courage and guts she has displayed in coming out and openly speaking about her battle with depression.
Let alone celebrities most ordinary citizens would shy away from openly talking about mental health issues, which is unfortunately considered a taboo even today in our country. It really does take a lot of guts to speak about your fights and conquests in the society. Hats off to Deepika for bringing this out in the national media!
As a doctor it has always perplexed me as to why most of us including the medical fraternity are so reticent about dealing with mental issues. Any mental health problem, be it depression, bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, etc., are always spoken about in hushed voices, never discussed and inappropriately treated in our country, because of the stigma attached to this.
Doctors shy away from diagnosing any psychiatric illnesses, families get irate when they hear about the diagnosis and most often refuse to seek appropriate medical attention from psychiatrists and psychologists. This certainly needs to be addressed in the medical curriculums and training programs. In addition, public awareness campaigns regarding this need to be launched and promoted aggressively.
We openly discuss about diabetes, BP, kidney problems and heart problems. We even take pride in publicizing the fact that the heart condition was treated by a famous specialist, within or outside the country, at an obscene price. People brag about these figures as if it were a coveted trophy to be displayed. Unfortunately, they hide the smallest of mental health issues not only the public but also from close family and friends.
One of the reasons that we see a large number of suicides is because many patients with depression do not come out to seek treatment. They do not benefit from counseling and appropriate therapy which could help them overcome their disorder. This is especially true in our country and more so in women for various reasons.
This can only change when we openly discuss such issues and create awareness and remove the stigma attached to this. It can only happen when celebrities come out in the open and speak about it. Over the last few decades we have seen this happen in the field of Cancer, AIDS and Gay rights, when celebrities who have experienced this have come out and spoken about and changed the public perception.
Hats off to the courage, conviction and the guts shown by Deepika who has come out and spoken about her depression in public! I am sure this will encourage and help a large number of young women and men afflicted with this to recognize and seek medical attention and hopefully prevent many suicides too.
May we have many more Deepikas to create awareness and help people about such issues that are normally swept under the carpet. Please join me in saluting Deepika for the bold step she has taken in bringing Mental Health issues Out of the Closet.
Dr. H Sudarshan Ballal, MD, FRCP (London)
Chairman – Med Adv Board & Medical Director – MHEPL,
Manipal Hospitals, 98, HAL Airport Road, Bangalore-560017
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are of the writer and not of the hospital.