I was a 9 year old kid when I joined my new school.
So excited and happy to make new friends. I went to school and all my classmates received me pleasantly. They were all concerned about how I would adjust with all of them. ( and I did not make that up!)Then suddenly a girl came into our class room. She was our classmate. Strangely, when she came, all the children started coming to me and warned me to be careful with her. They were telling me weird things about her like “she’s mad and gets crazy every 15 days” and that “she’s a thief and steals all our things, be careful when she’s around you.”
I didn’t quite understand what they were trying to tell me.
They were all very rude to her most of the time, she had no friends in the class and used to sit alone all the time. I used to be nice and talked to her as often as I could and observed that she was as normal as anybody else. More often than not, she would get terribly beaten by many of my classmates while a few of us always tried to stop them.
I never understood why they were being so indifferent to her.
One fine day when I saw her being beaten up by some of my classmates, I stopped them all and took her to our teacher. I complained to her about the people who were beating her up. This went on for a few years and finally, one day when we were in 8th grade, I found out that as a kid she suffered from a psychological disorder where the person unconsciously steals small things like pen or pencils around him/her. They don’t do it purposely and most of the times they are not aware of this thing that they do. This disorder is called kleptomania and can be largely brought under control. It is treatable (though not completely curable) and the person can be as normal and as healthy as any other person after treatment.
I also found out that when her parents realized that she had this problem, obviously after a lot of apprehension, they got her treated by a psychiatric medication and counselling by a psychologist. In a matter of 6 months, by the time she finished her 9th grade, she was fine.
Unfortunately, my classmates always treat her differently and she was always a “MAD” girl in their eyes.
I had studied with that girl for 8 years at school and felt agonized every single time my classmates wrongly treated her. Even today, 4 years since I left school,
I feel heart-broken when I realize that people disrespect her for something which was not even her fault.
My interaction with that girl for a major part of my schooling was my first close encounter with a mental health issue and this way I started developing interest towards Psychology. Later, a few other interactions and incidents in various places made that interest stronger and finally while making a career choice, I felt that mental health and psychology was the area that I really wanted to work in.
Recently, I had come across some mind boggling facts about how mental health is perceived in India. Today around 10 crore people in India suffer from different kinds of mental problems most common of them being depression.The most dreadful part of this condition is that less than 30% of these people get treated for their problems. Along with this, the mere thought of how all these people get discriminated and tormented itself is very excruciating, when these problems should be treated as normally as flu or fever.
This example along with many more situations in my life provoked a thought against this painful demeanor towards them, pushing me towards taking it up as a task.
This blog and website are also a part of the effort that I’m putting in to remove the stigma and fear around mental health.
Looking forward to all your support and suggestions!
Until my next post…Toodles!!