On the frontline: a psychiatrist's view

Denied citizens

Soumitra Pathare
Soumitra Pathare

"I have been a psychiatrist for nearly 15 years now. During this time I have been fortunate to get the opportunity to work with people with mental disorders in different countries and cultures such as United Kingdom and India. I have also had the opportunity to observe mental health services in diverse places such as Indonesia, Samoa and Vanuatu."

"Across countries and cultures, I am amazed by the resilience of people who have mental disorders. [They are] Living with illnesses that are difficult to understand and which affect the very core of our sense of self; battling on a daily basis to live ordinary lives like you and me; trying to live a normal life in a society that will not try to understand their reality and views them with fear and suspicion."

"I am saddened when I hear and see how mental health services fail to understand the simple desire to work and live a normal life in the community with friends and family. It is highly disappointing to see many mental health services do not perceive their primary role as facilitating the fulfillment of this desire."

"We (the professionals) frequently fail to understand their need to be in control of their lives and their bodies, just like any of us would want to. We are quick to prescribe solutions but not keen to listen to their voices. We frequently refuse to acknowledge their identity – I hate it when people say so and so is a schizophrenic – as if the illness is their identity."

"You might wonder why I continue to remain in this profession. Because I also have some memories that I cherish a lot. Seeing the smile and the excitement on the face of a person standing in the checkout queue at the supermarket. For the first time. Someone who had spent the greater part of their adult life in a mental asylum but was now living in their own home. I am proud to have been part of a mental health service that made this smile possible."

"Mental illness affects people like you and me. Its time we realized this is about us, not about them."

-- Soumitra Pathare, Psychiatrist, Pune, India