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Yesterday I went for a dance party which was held in honour of a newly married couple. The groom, a friend’s son, is a software consultant and the bride a clinical psychologist, also a teacher with a post graduate degree in the field of Clinical Psychology. I spoke to this young girl for a while. As the conversation meandered to the area of her work, I was taken aback when she said that she had worked with ‘hard core schizs’ in ‘mental hospitals’. They were ‘beyond any cure’, she said. And she carried on and on about how important it was to ‘locate the root cause of this illness’, ‘how medications needed to be stopped and counselling was the solution.’ Listening to her I felt the sickness of despair welling within me.
I wanted to retort back with the normal arguments which I do in such situations, but I am deeply ashamed that I did not. I don’t know what held me back. Was it because I did not want to make this girl, the new daughter-in-law of the house, disliked initially but tolerated now by her mother-in-law, my friend, uncomfortable? Or was it because I felt horrified at the ignorance and insensitivity displayed by a so called qualified clinical psychologist, who was also perhaps transmitting this attitude, to so many of her students? Or that this girl would be throwing so many people struggling with schizophrenia and their families into further chaos with her counselling sessions?
I feel angry with myself, for not having been my usual self and countered her statements. For according to the p-docs at Safdarjang Hospital, a leading Government hospital in New Delhi, there are one crore Indians (ten million) with schizophrenia and just 3500 psychiatrists who are pressed for time dealing with the wide spectrum of mental illness in this country. It would be so difficult to work in tandem with the clinical psychologists in such a mental health system. I feel sad that I let the social niceties and conditionings overcome me and that I did not speak up.