Movies and mental illness: a welcome trend !

Now that I have your attention with this picture , I would come to the point that I intend to make ;). I have watched many “Bollywood” films where the story is either based entirely on a mental illness or one of its main characters has been depicted to have a major mental/psychiatric illness.

To my mind in last 10 years there will not be less than 10 such movies.  Some of the largely successful ones are “Tare Jameen Pe” which revolves around main protagonist having Specific learning disability, which is commonly called as dyslexia. , then there was “Kartik calling Karkit” which deals with the issue of Schizophrenia, and “You me aur Hum” and “Black “, where the story revolves around the subject of Dementia. Apart from these there are some others too.

Among the recent movies , “ Anjana Anjaani”, which probably deals with depression  according to the writer/Director , where in the 2 characters meet while attempting suicide for different reasons and then they decide to “live to die” together , like a suicide pact .This one romanticizes a very serious psychiatric issue namely” suicide” and makes itsound a fancy thing to do.  Similarly a recent movie “Hansi to fansi” also depicts mental illness in a very bad light, and where in the male protagonist tells the female protagonist, that taking medicine for depression is a sign of weakness. This one statement probably will stop many depressed people watching this bollywood picture from seeking psychiatric help for their own anxieties and or depression.

On the other hand in the movie “Tare jameen Pe” the topic learning disability has been depicted very accurately and the message has been conveyed also in a very positive manner and it appears to be well researched. Similarly in the movie “ Wo lamhe “ the symptoms and problems of Schizophrenia has been depicted quite rightly and appears to be well researched . Apart from some minor glitches “ Kartik calling Kartik” also deals with topic of Schizophrenia nicely.

These movies overall have reduced the stigma towards mental illnesses in our Indian society. Largely because of the awareness of the signs and symptoms of these illnesses through a vast media such as bollywood movies, which has a penetration so deep that no amount of healthcare promotion awareness campaign can imagince to achieve in such a short time?

Many a times I am asked about Deepika Padukone’s coming out in public forum about her Depression.  I would not comment on why Deepika chose to speak about her depression, and was there any hidden agenda or not . But I must appreciate her for being brave in publicly acknowledging and speaking about her depression. This has done wonder to the awareness of the issues of mental illnesses in general and Depression in particular.

Having said that, I must assert , depression is an illness which is still more common among the lower socio-economic societies than in the upper affluent society. Moreover suicide is the second largest killer among the 15-30 age group in India, and mostly in lower and middle class India. This I am emphasizing, because such celebrity endorsements can sometimes take our attention away from the larger community, which requires the maximum help.


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