header photo

Off The Beat : A Big thank you to Aamir khan!!

By Dr.Jateen ukrani,DNB Resident - Dept of Psychiatry,VIMHANS hospitals,Vijayawada

 The first question that comes to your mind is why we are thanking Aamir khan ji today. I am not a big fan of his, so what has he done for us? How does it change things for us? And why does a budding doctor or any doctor like you need to be aware of It.? Well television influences our daily lives to a great extent and as the role of preventive medicine or “prevention is better than cure” grows in our treatment modalities, the role of television in health promotion (primary prevention) increases each year. There is no doubt that we are the future of medicine so we should know how television plays a role in promoting health and bringing the patient to us at an early stage thus facilitating his early diagnosis and treatment  . Of course there are going to be no MCQs based on this but yes as a doctor you should be aware of what’s going around you as it might help you take up sound decisions in clinical practise and better career decisions later when you have an opportunity.

On Television, Satyamev jayate is one show that has influenced lives of many and its one of the few programs that I usually enjoy watching on my uncanny idiot box.  For quite some time it has delivered unbiased opinions on a lot of critical social issues like female foeticide, child sexual abuse, rape, honour killings, domestic violence, untouchability, alcoholism, and the criminalization of politics. It has helped our generation change opinion on these issues and look at them from a different perspective. If Anna Hazare ji changed our sentiments towards issues of corruption then Aamir khan ji has just done the same for other social issues but in a much gentler way.

One big controversy of the first season was that it dragged doctors into the limelight; we were labelled as thieves, burglars and murderers trying to rob patients of their money. The episode went to the extent that it challenged well known medical facts and the entire doctor fraternity was left shell shocked after the episode. Aamir khan ji with his team were hugely criticised for not hearing both sides of the story and for not doing their homework properly. Not only did it hurt the reputation of doctor community as a whole but it also broadened the doctor patient divide, patients became more careful, more litigant and went onto take alternative/less effective modes of treatment. Many patients do seek these in the first place but as a result of the episode highlighting medical negligence by allopathic doctors many patients chose to shift to alternative models from allopathic medicine.

Now almost two years later he has done something that makes things better not just for the patients but for us psychiatrists as well which are a niche doctor population as far as India is concerned. His current episode on Nurturing mental health seeks to curb the stigma that is associated with mental illness and its treatment in India. It’s true that Mental illness is a huge burden in the Indian society and almost 17-25 percent of the average population suffer from mental illnesses. To make things simpler for you if your college/university has say 10,000 people in it then approximately 1700 -2500 people will have some psychiatric problem big or small. The number is huge and the reason they don’t tell you that they are ill even when they could be your best friend/relative is because of the stigma associated with it. This is a huge barrier for their early diagnosis and treatment. Another roadblock to treating the mentally ill is the immense shortage of psychiatrists in India which again is due to the stigma associated with the branch. There are only about 4000 psychiatrists in India and surprisingly there are more Indian origin psychiatrists in USA than in India. Consequently there are hundreds and thousands of towns, cities of India that still don’t have a psychiatrist for the mentally ill. This figure when compared to the number of physicians, surgeons in the country is meagre and shows immense opportunity for budding doctors. However despite this glaring statistic, most of the young generation of doctors feels one gets crazy in psychiatry which is absolutely not true. Well can’t a general surgeon suffer from hernia??  Can’t an orthopedician have a fracture?? Can’t a general physician have diabetes? Just because they are practicing medicine doesn’t mean that they are immune to it. If they suffer a non communicable medical illness, these illnesses will be due to what they are doing in their personal lives and not because of their professional lives. Similarly a psychiatrist may be prone to mental illness like the general population but only because of their personal life and not due to their professional life. This stigma for psychiatry and shortage of psychiatrists has moulded our society to an extent where people prefer going to faith healers rather than visiting a mental health care facility. Once the patient reaches a faith healer he has to undergo emotional and sometimes physical abuse adding to his distress. To make you understand the plight of a mentally ill patient imagine that he has to first fight the illness, then the stigma of mental illness, then the shortage of psychiatrists in India, get emotionally and physically abused by faith healers and then finally ending up at a psychiatrist probably months or years after the first symptom of disease occurred when all the harm done to him could have been easily prevented if you and others would have shared a better outlook towards mental illness.

Many people don’t get the concept of mental illness. Why does it occur?? Why does one get mentally ill?  To understand this lets see an example:

 We all know there is some amount of sugar always present in blood and its called blood sugar. This sugar fuels up the cells or building blocks of our body. We all know when we eat excess sweets our body gets affected by it and it may sometimes lead to increased levels of sugar in our body causing Diabetes. This blood sugar is present in everyone’s body and only its excess or deficiency causes a problem.

Similarly there are few chemicals AKA neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine etc) in the brain which are normally present in everyone’s body and fuel up the emotions in our daily lives. Whatever we think and do in our day to day life affects these neurotransmitters. When these neurotransmitters rise beyond or go below a certain point it causes a mental illness. If we face a stressful situation it may cause these chemicals to rise (or fall) akin to eating excess sweets raising blood sugar levels

 Also just like diabetes, mental illness may also have a genetic predisposition. If somebody in your family has committed suicide, you are more likely to do the same when you face difficulties in life. When you look at the concept it’s just so easy to understand but yet it has faced so much controversy because people don’t want to be labelled mentally ill. Nobody wants the illness of the mind when we all should think of Mind as an organ. We know its more complex than other organs in our body like the heart or lung but in the end it remains an organ and since its more complex it needs more help. Just like the hearts function is to pump blood, the minds function is to pump thoughts. If the heart can suffer angina, then the mind can also suffer depression. And when it happens you need to go to a trained psychiatrist just like when you rush to a cardiologist for angina.

Probably For the first time these issues, stigma of mental illness and its effect on the society has been discussed in a television program on a national level. Aamir khan ji has definitely done a good job by bringing into focus the utmost important issue of mental illness. I was never a fan of his work but with this 1 hour of television he has helped probably the most morbid group of patients, suffering not just because of the disease but also from the stigma associated with it. His single episode has made a psychiatrists job much more easy  who had to first fight the stigma of the mental illness before he could actually start treating the mentally ill. By this step he has probably made amends to his previous mistake and covered the topic extensively leaving no grain of doubt in the viewers’ minds. By explaining this complex relationship between mental illness, the patient and a psychiatrist  he has bridged the doctor patient divide that he had probably once broadened and restored the faith of the patients in doctors. He has undoubtedly proved that he is not just an actor but a hero in true sense .

Just in case you have missed it you can watch the same on YouTube by clicking here.


Disclaimer: The article/blog is not intended to be a review of the episode. The writer intends to make public more aware of the importance of recognizing mental illnesses that can be treated by psychiatrists which was the original theme of the episode. The author also intends in guiding young doctors to join this noble profession in the process.Information provided here is for medical education only. It is not intended for and is not a substitution of medical advice. The presentations, Guidelines, Videos and other electronic media are sole property of original authors and uploaders.Under no circumstances will the authors of this blog be liable to you for any direct or indirect damages arising in connecting with the use of this website.



Go Back