Sunday, July 3, 2011

Perceptions of Mental Illness in India

Understanding schizophrenia in the Indian context has been very eye-opening. Psychosis in the traditional Indian view is due to jada tona or black magic in which an individual is inhabited by a bhoot or spirit. What is interesting to me is that in India there seems to be so little fear of patients with schizophrenia compared the United States where the culture seems to believe that people experiencing delusions or hallucinations are dangerous. I haven't seen patients with schizophrenia at Shraddha that are agitated or out of control. On the contrary, they seem quiet, even timid. Perhaps because they aren't seen as a threat, people with mental illness seem more integrated into Indian society, especially in rural areas. Though it's difficult to generalize about a country as complex as India, there seems to be less stigma associated with serious mental illness here. Dr. Vatwani however, believes there is more stigma in urban areas than rural areas. Perhaps this is due to more easy access to Bollywood and Hollywood films that usually portray people with mental illness as psychotic killers.

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