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Addressing the epidemic of mental ill-health in India
In our country mental illnesses are stigmatized. This is because we are unaware of the real nature of mental health problems. We have to understand that psychiatric illnesses are caused by neurotransmitter imbalances. What we need to know is that medicines can completely heal a person.

Without aggressive initial medication, a mentally ill person will ultimately commit suicide. Unfortunately educated people are educated in most spheres of life but are unaware of mental illnesses. Thus, if a young adolescent girl tells her parents that she wants to commit suicide for all her friends hate her; the parents delay seeking professional medical help by trying to counsel the girl themselves.

It is criminal to withhold medicines from someone suffering from mental diseases. We proudly seek government help for cancer and AIDS but do not speak up for the mentally ill. Yet mental ill health is epidemic in India. In this day and age, mental health hospital stays are redundant and inhuman.

A proper drug-regimen can and does change behaviour. The best way to illustrate this is through an example we all are familiar with- if we drink alcohol or coffee or tea, we feel some sort of change in our minds. If these agents can change our behaviors, then it follows that much smaller doses of medicines too will have certain effects on the mind.

The following may help as indicators for immediate mental-health interventions:

  1. Recurrent bouts of sadness; spontaneous crying; excessive mourning.

  2. Periods of spending sprees followed by periods of sorrow.

  3. Desire to commit suicide or lesser degree self-harm.

  4. Fast talking, racing thoughts; desire leading to at least one episode of sexual exhibitionism.

  5. Excessive sleepiness or insomnia; excessive sudden energy or lethargy.

  6. Panic attacks including various phobias like fear of closed rooms/lifts.

  7. Hand-washing/repetitive behaviours like checking the door seeing whether it is truly shut or excessive cleanliness.

  8. Having certain thoughts repeatedly intervening in one’s mind.

  9. Thinking others are plotting against you; may be messages are coming from the television that you may be harmed.

  10. Violent rage.

  11. Lack of libido.

Now if anyone of the above is true for you or someone you know, then you need psychiatric help. There are medicines called Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) which take about ten days to start working which will bring back absolute quality of life.

A psychiatrist with an MD in psychiatry is the best person to give you or someone you know the exact medicines. In the coming days I will tell you here about specific illnesses of the mind and their possible detection criteria and the possible cure at hand.

At this point, the reader should understand that available scientific evidence shows that only after medication for about one to two months is any sort of talk-therapy useful. Mediation and yogic postures do not help if one has untreated mental illnesses.

There are scientific studies to show that meditation and yoga in one who has the illness may worsen it. But after medication by an MD psychiatrist (some are MDs in neuro-psychiatry), on her/his advice meditation and yoga can be started. If the right medications are used at their lowest possible doses then side-effects are nearly nil.

Alcohol, and even soft-drinks are more harmful and addictive than modern psychiatric medications. There are medical doctors who have diplomas in psychiatry; approach them if you do not find MDs in psychiatry. 

The stress here is on finding an MD in psychiatry since the latter has done an equivalent of a Masters Degree in the general stream say in History. A Diploma in History will make do but is never the same as a Masters in History.

What has to be understood is that even highly psychotic (i.e. those who for instance, see Krishna or Jesus speak to them from tree tops) people respond to oral medications which once started and continued; will change their behaviours so much that the same people who once thought these patients as “mad” will be ashamed that they ever thought so. And the patient can safely be inducted in any walk of life.

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