DIGNITY is the theme for World Mental Health Day 2015

 FACEMi National Launch 12 Sep 2015

This above picture shows the launch of the First national forum for families and PMIs in India called FAmilies AllianCE on Mental Illness on Sept 12th at Bangalore in India by Action for Mental Illness.

Greetings from Action for Mental Illness, India (acmiindia@gmail.com).

Dignity is the theme for World Mental Health Day 2015 falling on October 10 every year. It is a simple yet profound; going beyond the conventional realm of human rights into humanism. According to Wikipedia, “Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism, empiricism) over established doctrine or faith (fideism)”. This is exactly what the theme Dignity conveys. That the mentally ill person is a human being, a Subject and not an Object is oft forgotten by the very proponents of human rights theory in every day encounters. Be it treatment decisions, medication plans, rehabilitation issues- very rarely, we remember to seek the opinion of the person with mental illness (PMI) or disorders. “Impaired thought process” are taken as a habitual response (used in a phenomenological sense) of the PMIs prompting covert medication, forced hospitalization etc. There are exceptional situations, no doubt, that call for restraint, forced treatment etc. However, this must not become an established practice for fear of PMI going violent and unmanageable. Covert medication (CM) is justified in the mental health community of India as a measure of preventive care. Unfortunately, even the psychiatrists who practice it do not wish to get it legalized. Even if there is legal backing, is it a humanistic practice? Are we not violating the Dignity of Life without even making the slightest effort at a dialogue; or any other humanistic mea such as involuntary admission? In fact, some case histories reveal that CM has resulted in family tragedies; cases of aggressive response from PMIs on hearing about CM are very common; and it destroys the family bond completely. Not realizing the true cause, families keep believing that it is the illness that causes negative behavior! How sad to deprive PMI the dignity of life.

Dignity in death is yet another serious denial. This happens due to lack of life care in countries like India. As member of the National Mental Health Policy Group, I could draw the attention of the Government to thetragic deaths of several PMIs in India who die for want of care, orphaned in their own houses – they have a shelter but die “Homeless”. The decomposed body, decayed and worm infested, smelly and rotten are retrieved by police on hearing from neighbors. Christened as “OPMI”, I believe this needs immediate attention from the global mental health Community. Let us not miss the woods while counting the trees.

DIGNITY is a fabulous theme for 2015.

Nirmala Srinivasan



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