The Epidemic of Mental Illness

As I passed by an abandoned sanatorium in Matheran on Sunday, the vibes from the place were not necessarily the best. Out of want for an adventure, I imagined a mishap and the number of unwanted human beings that must have at some point inhabited the place. In my head, I briefly lived through that scene in 15 Park Avenue, when the protagonist Rahul Bose comes across his schizophrenic ex-girlfriend.
Mental health has always been a mystery to me. But the entire idea of it being a medical issue boggles my mind. It moves from a medical realm to a philosophical one in a matter of seconds (possibly why I would never have made a good psychiatrist!) It’s relative and behavioral and can never, in my opinion, follow a set of definitions.
I always remember the one line by Paolo Coehlo in his book Veronica decided to die, an inmate of the asylum questions what those walls are for, “Are they to protect the world from us or to protect us from the world?”
With the rising number of reported cases, I begin to wonder what is good for our society. America currently claims to be going through a raging epidemic of mental illness. All numbers point towards double digit increase in the number of people (children more so) suffering from some disorder or other.
Is that what we are headed as well? A population more dependent on their therapists and lawyers than their friends and family, is that what we are aspiring to turn into? All these disorders, are these not mere stereotypes? Everything has a medicine, they even have a medicine for rudeness (an observation from PS I love you!). My side of the argument is simple. What if a “disorder” is the inherent nature of the person? Wouldn’t drugs that cure his so-called condition alter his personality and no longer preserve his true identity? Are we not altering behavior to suit that of the masses? Are we simply expanding the criteria for mental illness so that nearly everyone has one?
A recent acquaintance with a psycho-analyst opened my eyes to the good side of the dreaded electric shock. The process apparently is a fool proof method into shocking craziness into submission. The method may seem brutal (images of old hindi movies and the million horror flicks), but it seems to have been in use for centuries and has worked wonders in the field of psychiatry. Perhaps I need a little more research to have some faith in the field.
Right now, it just seems like a way to build stereotypes in the desperate need of giving people an identity (“the Sylvia Plath effect” is the perfect example of such stereotyping). Perhaps a little more insight into the medicine of it might change my opinion. For now, it seems rather romantic to be depressed, anxious or paranoid, until of course they make a drug to cure my being me!

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