In a first of its kind, The Live Love Laugh Foundation (TLLLF) unveiled a report on public perception towards mental health in India. Based on a nationwide research on 3,500 respondents across eight Indian cities, this report brought to light the stigmas associated with mental illness in the country. Highlighting the importance of focused stigma-reduction programmes in mental health initiatives, the discussion featured panellists Anna Chandy (TLLLF), Dr Soumitra Pathare (Centre for Mental Health Law and Policy at the Indian Law Society, Pune) and Siddharta Swarup (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation).
Speaking at the launch, Deepika Padukone, Founder, TLLLF said, “This research initiative is part of our ongoing efforts to build a better understanding about mental health in our country.Our research shows that only over a quarter of the respondents are willing to be supportive in many aspects, while the remaining are either judgmental or fearful of those affected with mental illness. This is an extremely unfortunate situation for us to be in. It is absolutely critical that we as a society work together towards increasing awareness,reducing stigma and normalising the need to seek support for mental illness.”
Some of the more upsetting findings of the report indicate the poor understanding of the respondents towards mental illness. There is a high prevalence of stigma with 47% of people using the word “retard” to describe people with mental illness. Further, 60% of the respondents believe that people with mental illness “should have their own groups to avoid contaminating healthy people” and 68% believe that they “should not be given any responsibility”. A majority of the respondents also believe that mental illness is caused by a “lack of self-discipline and willpower”.
In her own words, Anna Chandy, Chairperson, The Board of Trustees at TLLLF, said: “Focussing both on decreasing stigma and increasing awareness is the key. By inculcating collectivist practices into our more individualistic lifestyles we can shape the conversation to build an inclusive society to a) provide support to people with mental illness, and b) Increase India’s awareness about mental health concerns.”
All wasn't lost in this conversation though! A key highlight of the report provided some hope towards destroying stigma against mental illness, where 27% of the respondents showed compassion towards the issue. They indicated support for people perceived as having a mental illness. They do not discriminate against people with mental illness and predominantly believe that anyone can suffer from mental illness.
It is exactly this delicate situation that Deepika Padukone’s foundation strives to resolve. Since its inception, TLLLF has undertaken landmark initiatives such as the launch of the award-winning #DobaraPoocho – India’s first nationwide public awareness campaign on mental health, and several on-ground activities such as mental health awareness programs for school students and teachers which has already reached approximately 65,000 students and 11,450 teachers across six Indian states.
We for one are ecstatic to witness these groundbreaking initiatives and hope to lend a helping hand ourselves! Find out more about the foundation’s important work right here.