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Bollywood, Mental Health and Stigma: A Reality Check for the Film Industry

From casually using the term ‘Paagal’ for a mentally ill person to using mental illness as a comic relief, Bollywood has done it all. So even though it seems like they have come around, they surely cannot be given a clean chit.

This image is used for representational purpose only

More than 100 years of Bollywood and you can still count on your fingers, the number of movies that talked about mental health. With movies like Dear Zindagi and chhichhore, bollywood sure has started talking about the seriousness of the issue, but we should not forget that bollywood has had a huge role in promoting stigma and stereotypes, when it comes to mental illness.  From casually using the term ‘Paagal’ for a mentally ill person to using mental illness as a comic relief, Bollywood has done it all. So even though it seems like they have come around, they surely cannot be given a clean chit. They still have a long way to go when it comes to removing stereotypes that was created in the first place by them.

The unfortunate death of Sushant Singh Rajput has been a reality check for the film industry. It has once again showed us how toxic not talking about one’s mental health can be. For a person who looks superficially, it may seem that the life of the actor was perfect, he had money and fame but what we fail to see is the hardships that he must have gone through. With no one to talk to or understand what mental health issues he was facing; he saw no other choice than ending his life.

Before we talk about our mental health, we first have to remove the stigma around it. Many people have been questioning the sudden need to talk about mental health. Their point of argument, like every other thing, is that people have been living for so long but no one before had any mental issues. They think that this new generation is trying to make an issue out of nothing.

It’s important for people to understand that mental health is not a new phenomenon. It has existed since forever and the only reason that people have started talking about it, is because we are finally addressing its prevalence in our daily lives.

In a report by World Health Organization (WHO) 2019 –

  • One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives.
  • nearly two-thirds of people with a known mental disorder never seek help from a health professional. Stigma, discrimination and neglect prevent care and treatment from reaching people with mental disorders
  • Currently, more than 40% of countries have no mental health policy and over 30% have no mental health programme. Around 25% of countries have no mental health legislation.
  • more than 33% of countries allocate less than 1% of their total health budgets to mental health, with another 33% spending just 1% of their budgets on mental health.
  • There is only one psychiatrist per 100 000 people in over half the countries in the world, and 40% of countries have less than one hospital bed reserved for mental disorders per 10 000 people.

The earlier we come to terms with the fact that mental illness is a real issue, the earlier we can start addressing the impact of mental health in our lives. We can no longer afford to close our eyes when faced with such a substantial issue.

What do you think?

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