A week or two ago, I sat down to research an article on old age and its associated medical, economical and social problems. There are loneliness and security issues and then there are monetary troubles. While talking to a doctor from a medical trust, there came up in conversation mental health among the elderly.
She told me that in rural area, a possible mental illness is perceived as a natural sign of aging. There is often little or no distinction made between senility and serious mental conditions like Alzheimer’s. Loss of memory, even its worsening cases, is seen as aging symptoms. In most cases, they are dismissed also as a case where the person is being haunted by spirits. It was shocking to know that in cases of aggravated Alzheimer’s, there might be a plate of food in front of a patient and that patient might not even be able to recognize it as food!
In urban societies, there is better awareness regarding mental conditions. But the taboos that are associated with such illnesses persist, with the patient further suffering from neglect and isolation.
Mental illness is a serious issue that we are going to look into at Sittilingi. It is not just the luxury of the rich or the urban to be afflicted with these conditions. There is the dubiously named village idiot in every town or street corner, the one who dresses in rags, talks to himself and sleeps outside the grocery shop after the shutters are downed. There are grandfathers and old uncles or frail grandmothers who are made to sit in a corner of the house and ignored the rest of the day. There are younger people, sometimes unemployed, plagued with depression that might turn into an addiction to a substance soon after.
If you scratch below the surface of finely laid down societal frameworks, there are cases of mental illness that afflict several people of all ages. We at Sittilingi are working on a program to ensure mental health among the tribals. The mind is as important as the body being in the pink of health. Watch this space for the details soon!
Meanwhile, we seek your support and valuable suggestions for our new initiative. Write to us!