Time and again we have seen the portrayal of ‘mentally disturbed characters’ in our Indian film industry. Every time, without fail (barring a few exceptions) the directors fail to recognise the mental disorder incorrectly ( making nothing or everything a depression or a Bipolar Disorder or Schizophrenia). Furthermore, what disgusts me is that for every disorder the only cure ( more often than not) they find is electro convulsive therapy (ECT; what lay people call as “shock therapy”). It is scenes like these that create the fear of approaching mental health professionals among the public.
I ask “How can a guy ( Manu) who is normally expressing his opinions and emotions against his wife receive ECT just like that? How? ” Some people may argue that the movie was a comic one and this too might be a part of making the script funny. I, however, refute to this suggestion. Showing comedy and stating facts are two different things. It is scenes like these, which are lightly showcased and are passed around as “facts” for the public which continues to be unaware about mental disorders and more so the treatment for the same. ECT is a treatment, often used as a last resort when pharmacotherapy (i.e. medicines) or psychotherapy (i.e. counselling meant for mental disorders) fails to help the distressed patient. As a treatment, it is never ever given without consent. This is much contrary to how the movies show the person being dragged to a room and given shock, not as a treatment but as a punishment. Secondly, ECT is a mild shock, not something brutal and inhumane as shown by our esteemed directors!
In a country like ours, where there are innumerable myths which continue to prevail with respect to mental illness, it is our media which aggrandizes the myths by multiple proportions, thus further adding to the stigma and taboo of seeking help from a mental health professional.
What further disturbs me is how loosely the disorders are labelled onto a character portrayed by an actor. I opine that if a director does wishes to show a mental disorder in a movie, s/he researches well about it and then portray it in the best interest of the public. It’s sad that while our directors have an expertise in copying scripts blindly from the West, they lack on polishing their professional skills when it comes to depicting an individual with a mental illness.
Media is that one source which reaches the masses with the most impact. It is only when the scenes depicted in the movie show the “real facts” will people start accepting mental illness, the importance of mental health and role of mental health professionals in helping them.
Dear Directors, please stop meddling with clinical jargon and molding into anything that suits your interest. Think of the millions out there whom your dialogues and characters are making a lasting impact and choose a well researched path than your ‘lay’ knowledge, as nothing is more detrimental than that.
One of the concerned Mental Health Professionals of India