Galveston Review: Pizzolatto’s gloomy southern noir is here to stay.

Galveston Review: Pizzolatto’s gloomy southern noir is here to stay.

“Certain experiences you can’t survive, and afterward you don’t fully exist, even if you failed to die. You’re here because it’s somewhere. Dogs pant in the streets. Beer won’t stay cold. The last new song you liked came out a long, long time ago, and the radio never plays it anymore.” – Excerpt from the book

Does anyone smell pessimism reading that? Oh you do, don’t you? And you like it, just like you love the smell of gasoline while getting your car pumped. Well, that’s what Nic Pizzolatto usually brings you – A dark pensive state of downbeat outlook through the protagonist’s eyes and mind simmered in the realms of deserted landscapes and endless cigarette puffs.

Like a lot of people, I too decided to look for Nic’s other works after watching his sickeningly mesmeric ‘True Detective’ on HBO which gave the world ‘Rust Cohle’, one of the most riveting characters in the history of TV and that’s when I got hold of this penetrating neo-noir, ‘Galveston’ – A dark intrinsic debut set in the lifeless ambience of Galveston, a coastal city located in the state of Texas hovering over three neglected lives on the run. Roy Cady (‘Big Country’ as called by other folks at the bar) an aging mob lackey who clears debts for his boss in New Orleans has just been diagnosed with cancer and sensing that his own boss wants him dead through a routine assignment that turns into a deadly shootout, Roy finds himself on the run with some important papers, an eighteen year old sex kitten named Rocky with a heart wrenching past and later her three year old sister, Tiffany. Not really an expected trio, but that’s how it went. Written in a two-split narrative track with a jump of twenty years, Galveston takes you on a sleazy ride in the lightless highways of east Texas with a banality of southern country-western bars and a worn out motel where Roy and Rocky- two lugubrious souls with shrinking hopes to survive try to figure each other’s  inducements.

The world of Nic Pizzolatto is not for the happy-go-lucky ones. It circumnavigates around the inner monologues of characters like Roy and Rust who wear their pasts like straight-jackets, avoiding social conventions in this disintegrating world and backpacking philosophy of people like Thomas Ligotti and Friedrich Nietzsche. These people while swimming in nihilistic depths also conceive a tiny pore of humanism in them which explains their deeds. Nic has built a habit of feeding their viewers/watchers a blend of incandescent temptations and pessimistic soliloquy served with violent sceneries of depressing countryside and alcoholism. He makes sure his prose serves the story not just for its validity but also for his love of capturing the southern theme where bars, glocks and trucks are cherished. Galveston is clever, engrossing and does the job like a reliable hitman and if you’re already a ‘True Detective’ fan, this book is just another hit from that bong.

 

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Talking to yourself? Not a bad idea

Talking to yourself? Not a bad idea

Annie’s son was 11 years old when she discreetly started noticing him talking to himself. At first, it came to her as a fearful assumption of anything paranormal or a major psychotic issue. She went to a psychologist and it was then when she was relieved and told that it was rather a good indication of maturity. There are about 55% people in this world who assert that they talk to themselves verbally or “just in the head”.

“Yes! Of course I talk to myself. Sometimes I need expert’s advice.”

This quotation remains a prime one for a lot of people not just for its humorous aphorism but also the psychological certainty behind it. People who talk to themselves tend to develop a certain momentum in their ability of decision making not only over their major problems but also those little quickie ones that take place just about every day. Bathroom mirrors, empty streets and elevators are some of the most conventional places, but some people who stand at a much advanced level do not temporize when a clever narration about their latest story hits them while standing inside a packed subway train. Talking to yourself not only relieves the loneliness, it may also make you smarter. It helps you clarify your thoughts, tend to what’s important and firm up any decisions you’re contemplating. There’s just one proviso: You become smarter only if you speak respectfully to yourself.

We’re all familiar with the character of Dexter Morgan in the prominent crime-psych TV series “Dexter” and not to mention we’re most overwhelmed when he speaks to himself through his own voice in his head that characteristically and rationally puts everything around him at its place so he can comprehend it. Be it Dexter Morgan or Annie’s 11 years old son, when they talk to themselves about anything they both experience the same analogical contentment. They both place their muddles before them, fragment them into pieces, analyzing each one verbally and mentally before finally arriving to a conclusion. It’s much straight-forward and quick as it sounds complex.

Personal Monologue is the term I like to use while explaining the art of talking to myself. It’s usually used as meat in theaters but it sure works as an honest assistant in an individual’s personal life. Most people aren’t going to have the foggiest notion about the little actions you take that serve you well. If you think you deserve a “Good Job!” for it, give it to yourself. Compliments make the best of it. Choices aren’t easy. Indeed, because they’re so difficult, we often don’t really make a choice; we respond impulsively taking in accordance, our habit and our anxiety towards that particular choice. What makes it effective and interesting is when you create a dialogue with yourself so that you can hear what you think. “I want to stay because of x but I want to go because of y, OK! Let’s see. I’m clearly ambivalent”. Nevertheless, one needs to figure out which decision to make. A little “We need to talk” session can assist you in making a commendable compromise or a workable conciliation between your wants, your needs and other people’s expectations.

There have been numerous researches conducted by experimental    psychologists that have resulted in people progressing in cognitive decision making and conquering self-defeating patterns of behavior. So the next time you’re off to an interview or stuck in a situation you don’t want to be, let your mind speak to you and fill you in with all the details and favorable suggestions so you can figure out what to do or say next. Whether you’re living by yourself or living with others, you’re always living with yourself so take some time, look in the mirror, stare in those tired eyes of yours and say something.

Depression FROM Oppression – A response to Manu Joseph

Depression FROM Oppression – A response to Manu Joseph

Numerous attempts have been made by people to derail the actual reasons of Rohith Vemula’s suicide and a recent article by Manu Joseph published in the Hindustan Times is deceptive on a whole new level. Although, the author has claimed his views as personal expression, the notion still needs to be debunked not just because it can be but also because a lot of people tend to overlook the veracity. The first flaw can be easily noticed in the title itself. As the title goes “Oppression or Depression”, the author has tried to draw a fine line between the terms ‘oppression’ and ‘depression’ ignoring the fact that both concepts actually sustain a cause-effect relationship.

CW: Discussion about Suicide

People tend to understand a suicide by ascribing reasons. Usually, they tend to give an inordinate importance to the suicide note. The living are seldom believed when they explain themselves, but the dying are in their final hour.

The reason people, including forensic experts and psychologists take suicide notes to their utmost significance is because of its psychological credibility and truthfulness. Suicide notes provide information about the psychopathology of the suicide victim and there are a number of researches to support that. The presence of a suicide note is itself a blunt indication of the person’s emotional openness and mental state. Statements like “The living are seldom believed when…” sound wise and cocky but it doesn’t take much to understand that the living and ruling also possess the capability to counterfeit everything and anything, verbally and nonverbally.

But Vemula’s final letter has been ignored by those who are most moved by his death. In the note, the young man, who was not known to restrain his words, took pains to absolve everyone but himself for his action. As a result, his well-wishers had to find other reasons, reasons that make sense to them, powerful reasons, for his death. As Vemula had written in his final note, “The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity.

The author quite naively tried to implant a seed of doubt when he presented Rohith’s friends, family and people who have known him for a long time, (some of whom are Dalit and are fully aware of their give and takes with this society) wrong and emotionally compromised by not being able to recognize his depression despite the fact that dalits are identified under the term ‘depressed classes’ for a reason. Quoting from Ratna. G. Revankar’s book, The Indian Constitution – Case Study of Backward Classes:

The terms coined by several committees to denote “scheduled castes” were:- “Depressed Classes,” “Exterior Classes”, “Excluded Castes” and “Backward Classes.

The term ‘depressed’ was intentionally used to relate Dalits with the series of jobs they were entitled to commit to, which as we know are considered utterly grim and insanitary by the society. I don’t think, in times like these there is still a need to explain why the suppressed ones and the oppressed ones are often the depressed ones.

A few months ago, when Deepika Padukone had revealed that she suffered from depression and suicidal tendencies, there appeared to be a consensus in the refined society that it was time we gave depression the respect of a severe disease and not the contempt we have for a character flaw. Can we extend the consideration to Vemula?

Yes, but could anyone go one more step further to recognize the origin of his depression? His loved ones have, but have you? There is no denying in the fact that clinical depression does not get the attention it needs in a society desecrated with stigma but it is worth to note that like every suicide has a cause, every depression has a cause or a source too. Depression doesn’t transpire suddenly in an individual it’s a gradual process and can always be attributed to a certain problem – be it, illness, family, money or abuse. When Ambedkar used the term “depressed classes” interchangeably with “dalits” in his book ‘Annihilation of Caste’, he developed a context of the oppressed minorities being the most despondent ones.

The author then indicated a little agreement when he wrote-

What if the reason for his death was a bit of both — what if he was depressed, and he was pushed to take the extreme step by the cultural cartel?

..And then he went on

But then the fact that thousands like him who face far worse do not end their lives, points to one dominant influence

The very paper this article is published in has another news article capturing the current events which reads the following –

Members of the Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) claim that as many as 12 students belonging to scheduled castes have ended their lives since the central university came into existence in the early 1970s, largely due to caste prejudices that many say are omnipresent.

How many more deaths, beatings, harassments and discriminations of dalits would it take to qualify for the reason of dalit suicides being nothing but the caste system itself or in the author’s words, the “cultural cartel”. According to a report by the American foundation of suicide prevention, Over 50 percent of all people who die by suicide suffer from major depression, but this doesn’t give one the right to exhibit the other 50% as some sort of a lesson. Depression is exclusive to a particular individual and is triggered by various aspects of that individual’s life.

Well-meaning activists who push the theory that Vemula killed himself because of discrimination convey the lethal message to thousands of clinically depressed young men and women in India that there is a sensible reason to end their lives. Such a transmission occurred in the hypothesis of ‘farmer suicides’, too.

I’ll say it again. How much does it take to ask the question “Why?”

The “lethal” message is not a suggestion the activists are making but a horrifying consequence which is out in the open for everyone to form their own opinions about. The sad part is only a handful of them use reason and logic to make it. A farmer commits suicide not because his fellow farmer did but because he is succumbed into depression and stress by the unpaid debts throwing him in the vicious circle of poverty. Suicide Ideation is not a choice by imitation but an outcome of the oppression. The “message” cannot be stopped; the cause very much needs to be.

Poverty then is a factor, not a cause. Farmer suicide is a depression story, not an economics story. Tibetan monks who immolate themselves in protest against China are a depression story, not a political story. Suicide bombers are a depression story, not a radical-Islam story. Rohith Vemula, from all evidence in plain sight, is a depression story, not a Dalit story.

Why don’t we let social science answer this?

David Émile Durkheim was a French sociologist, social psychologist and philosopher, who along with Karl Marx and Max Webber, is considered one of the prime architects of modern social science. In his book ‘Suicide’ (1987) he postulated four sub-types of suicide which categorizes various reasons that lead people to commit the act of killing themselves. The death of Rohith and other such people fall under the term ‘Fatalistic suicide’ which clearly means a suicide that occurs when a person is excessively regulated, when their futures are pitilessly blocked and passions violently choked by oppressive discipline. Fatalistic suicide served as a descriptor for suicides in traditional societies, because Durkheim was faced with the issue that even in societies with abundant social capital, individuals nevertheless killed themselves. In a similar way, the intentions of the Tibetan monks and the suicide bombers fall under the sub-type, ‘Altruistic suicide’- characterized by a sense of being overwhelmed by a group’s goals and beliefs. Durkheim’s theory of fatalistic suicide was supported by a research conducted at the Wayne State University which resulted in a strong correlation between oppression by a sense of totalitarianism and political overregulation and the rate of suicides.

One doesn’t need an in-depth knowledge of psychology to understand how indoctrination assists caste-abuse. It starts right from the moment when an upper caste-born child observes his elder advising him not to touch the cleaner while handing him the trash. Caste system is a brutal reality that needs to be confronted and not to be daubed with derailment. The article was nothing but a self-righteous admonishing of those who are braving against all odds to secure justice for Rohith and for the many Dalit and Bahujan students who have had to suffer institutional violence, emanating from a heady sense of entitlement that his caste affords. But what is more disconcerting is the fact that he is propped as a left-liberal of some sort, giving his article the unwarranted credibility.

India’s First-Ever Documentary on Fossils is a Must Watch For Everyone

India’s First-Ever Documentary on Fossils is a Must Watch For Everyone

“I shall endeavour to find out how nature’s forces act upon one another, and in what manner the geographic environment exerts its influence on animals and plants. In short, I must find out about the harmony in nature.”   – Alexander von Humboldt

Imagine you are walking on the playground and you come across a piece of rock with an unusual shape and a designed pattern carved on it, you take it to a geologist or any person you think who might have an idea and he tells you it’s a fossil of an organism that breathed on this planet more than 50 millions ago. Now imagine a town full of such fossils waiting to be explored. Amazed? Me too, but it’s all real and right here in India. Ariyalur is a small town located in the state of Tamil Nadu and is crammed with fossils millions of years old everywhere from backyards to lakesides. The place despite being such an enormous hub of scientific contribution, didn’t get any attention until now when a Chennai based film making crew decided to unearth these embedded fragments of life.

“Science is a pursuit I’d never be tired of taking. My love for science and my love of film-making is a combination that I can never say no to.”

Says Vaishnavi Sundar, the director and voice over artist of the film.
‘Unearthing The Treasures of Ariyalur’ is a not-for-profit and crowd-funded project targeted by Nirmukta, India’s largest NGO dedicated to promote Science, Freethought and Secular Humanism and was completed by Vaishnavi’s own emerging company Lime Soda Films.

Paleontology is the study of the history of life on Earth as reflected in the fossil record. With the expertise of two Paleontologists, Nirmal Rajah and Anurag Amin, the documentary takes you underneath the soil of Ariyalur and provides you a look into the life that sustained millions of years ago. An incredible arrangement of graphics and a story-telling voice over adds to the credibility of this film.

The documentary along with being fairly educational and exploratory also bestows us with a generous amount of scientific tranquillity and explains why is it important not just for the scientists but for all of us to fathom the trail of our existence. A significant part of the film includes a decent interaction between the two Paleontologists and kids from a local school which illustrates how a small segment of dissemination about science can evoke curiosity and the ‘will to inquire’ within children. An instant appreciation about the film by a Utah State Paleontologist, Dr. James l. Kirkland says,

“Happy to see this fine Paleontology documentary. As a Paleontologist I was most excited to see the kids in the film. Paleontology is one of the top gateways of kids developing a love of science. That is a priceless contribution to all of our societies.”

It is worth to note that this is by far the first documentary to cover fossilization in India and it has done a stupendous job by not only covering the prime intention of unearthing the fossils of Ariyalur but also by watering the plant of scientific inquisitiveness present in each one of us. Making such documentaries has been a necessity in India because they act as flairs to all those students, especially the unprivileged ones who see themselves securing a future in science but lack the basic inspiration to do so. Watch it and show it to everyone.

For further reading visit:  Unearthing The Treasures Of Ariyalur – A Documentary.

Films and Feminism: The Melange of Progress.

Films and Feminism: The Melange of Progress.

The world had just stepped into the 20th century when Alice Guy-Blaché released ‘The consequences of feminism’ in 1906 which became the first ever movie to lay out an honest depiction of a rather reversed patriarchy where women were envisioned to roam freely in the society enjoying leisure activities while their male counterparts were demoted to child-rearing and household jobs. This daring portrayal despite being a menace in such an era marked the very beginning of a sub-revolution for women filmmakers and directors who are still grappling to raise their heads up in this highly male dominated field of art. The strong trail of the first women filmmakers putting their foot down then began with Lois Weber and Dorothy Arzner in the US, Tazuko Sakane in Japan, Germaine Dulac in Europe and finally Fatma Begum in India, who started her own production company and directed ‘Bulbule Paristan’, in 1926.

It is 2016 now. The skyscrapers are up, technology is on fire, people have urbanized; but subjection still lurks, perhaps in a more modernized approach. Yes, the one where humor wins. It’s incredibly irksome to note that filmmaking while being considered a much liberating field of work hasn’t been able to emancipate itself from the dirt of sexism and misogyny and there are various connotative descriptions, incidents, anecdotes and cases to prove that. Incidents are small and casual, but provoke a larger pressure and you’ll be astonished to know there exists a tumblr page just for blogging these which goes by the nameShit People Say To Women Directors.

One of the many posts on this page reads:

I was at a film festival fundraiser in LA with my husband and we were talking with a few people about the film we were working on together. Some random guy joins and derails the conversation, and then turns his sights on me. “You,” he says. “I’m really good at guessing people’s jobs in this industry. You’re a makeup artist!” I reply, “While that’s a completely legit job, it’s not mine. I’m a documentary Director and Editor. But thanks for assuming!”

The quotation above can provide you a glance to how, in a so called modish societal worldview, such offhand attempts to degrade the already oppressed gender still exist in a particular workplace.

A recent study on gender inequality in Hollywood conducted at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism brought into limelight the initial disadvantages women directors have to face from the start of their careers. The study found that women represent 28% of the directors of narrative shorts. “Female film directors face a fiscal cliff in their careers after making a short film,” noted smith, one of the researchers. “For males opportunities grow, while for females, they vanish.” In the period of 2002 to 2014, female-directed movies comprised just 4.1% of the total top-grossing movies.

Now, let’s take a few steps back into an even darker demographic state where people cling so tight to the tag of “Bharatiya Nari” but fail to provide women even the basic sense of respect or dispensation. Filmmaking in India for women is one of the most arduous decisions taken as a career choice because of an established patriarchy that hasn’t left a single area uninfected. The problem here doesn’t even begin with workplace sexism but starts right from the beginning when a female student in her early twenties aspires to pursue a career in films, because here we hardly consider girls to even see a career, let alone moviemaking. A lot of such dreams are crushed; some manage to not give up and grow out like a tuft of grass from a crack in the rock, only to later find themselves surrounded by sexist decision-makings and misogynistic set ups offered by the film industry.

Starting from the prominence of directors like Fatma Begum and Arundhati Debi to the contemporary stardom of Mira Nair and Deepa Mehta, India has produced some of the most influential film artists till date and it is quite natural that each one of them carries an invisible weight of oppression they underwent to emerge in their careers. Another issue is the lack of takers of women directors in making larger feature films. While a few possess the economic privilege to venture out of the country and carry on with the production, the hassles stand adamant for the ones still living in India trying to alter their lives and the world with their movies. Deepa Mehta while making the ‘Elements Trilogy’, which was wholly based on the oppressive traditions of Indian culture, had to face numerous objections from religious organizations and wasn’t allowed to direct it within the country until she finally decided to shoot it in Sri Lanka. This is just the tip of the iceberg and we know of it because it was in the news at that time. Think about the ones, we don’t get to hear of, the ones that take place behind closed doors, the ones that some women in the industry- actors, directors, cinematographers, keep buried in their selves fearing the unsavory prudence of the society.

The denotation of sexism in earlier times was characterized by blunt confrontations and straightforwardness of male oppression, now it has been transformed into a milder structure of self-righteousness and casual humor, the idea behind it still speaks the same and harms even more because it comes as an indirect blow to the achievements of women, even among filmmakers. It’s not just about the directors and writers, but other jobs such as cinematography are often seen more of a masculine worthy area of work and the case of Priya Seth, the much appreciated cinematographer of a recent Bollywood movie ‘Airlift’ is a serious illustration to this fact. In a recent chat with Vegabomb she said:

The opportunities are fewer because you’re judged already right at the beginning on the basis of gender. I don’t understand what a ‘physical film’ means! I don’t understand why a man can shoot this and I can’t.

The quotation above can be tethered to a comment by a reviewer who casually expressed his surprise towards a cinematographer ending up being a woman. The critic tried to make an appreciative statement, but went off-road formulating a pre-conceived and generalized assumption, making it sound like benevolent sexism and then entered-yes you guessed it- feminism-bashing.

                                             “Dude, she is a feminist, so be careful.”

This widely used sentence has a significant place in maintaining the base of gender inequality in India. The reason this phrase is included here is because things are no different for women who dare to call out sexism and misogyny in the filmmaking business. The moment Priya Seth gave her statement about the gender bias, the anti-feminist brigade spun out from all corners with their “respectful” language and gestures and “#notallmen” flashcards trying to discern how we all should just take a break. Another setback that flows around the filmmaking community is the assumption that women don’t really mind “minor issues” very much and a case of copyright violations filed by Jyoti Kapoor against Kunal Kohli is a screaming example of it which a lot of us missed when it first came in sight. Quoting from a detailed description by the TOI :

Jyoti’s ordeal began when her agent emailed her script to Kunal. He met her and they discussed money and credit. She wanted top billing since she had given him a bound, 90-page script. But Kunal wanted certain changes and wanted to buy the script without giving any credit to her. The deal fell through…..
….Kunal has been asked to withdraw the defamation case against Jyoti. He has called her names in the media like ‘extortionist’ and ‘publicity hungry’.

Because, since it’s a woman you are talking about here, she won’t really mind it, nor does the whole scenario require much attention. Wrong! It does, because one doesn’t need a history lecture to comprehend a trail of cases and incidents where women are shunned and shushed indirectly for speaking up against the system and living in this fear a lot of them do not actually open up.

When it comes to the recent efforts in breaking the barriers, the name of Jennifer Siebel Newsom comes to mind, a feminist director who wrote and documented the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence and challenged the limited and often disparaging portrayals of women in media in her film, ‘Miss Representation’. Featuring a group of influential women like Gloria Steinem, Nancy Pelosi and Condoleezza Rice, Jennifer not only exposed the sexualized objectification of women in mainstream advertisements but also highlighted the unending stream of machismos faced by female politicians like Hilary Clinton- The kind where females are often interpreted as “complaining” while males tend to “state their opinion”.

 

When I started the film I wanted to make a feel-good film, but I could not. In a way I feel bad about it, but I felt like it would be good to share a real story. When you take the story to the people there can be discussion. Importantly, I want to talk about something. I wanted to do this film also because it challenged my own notions as a feminist from an urban area.

— Director Nishtha Jain on her film ‘Gulab Gang’. (Full Interview here )

Nishtha is one of those few Indian feminist movie directors who decided to capture the rural theme and did a wonderful job by featuring the infamous group of women (Gulabi Gang) at Bundelkhand led by Sampat Pal Devi, revolting against patriarchy and caste oppression in the most conservative locations of India. Such influential movies and their independent makers usually go inconspicuous in the rabble of “enjoyably” sexist comedies and regressive thought-clinginess of the general public. Nisha Pahuja, Anjali Menon, Ajita Suchitra Veera, Sonali Gulati. These are some of the names you might not have heard of on a very regular basis, obviously not as much as you have heard of the male directors but when you watch their films which have touched a sea of festivals around the world, you can feel the immensity of their talent, their passion and the message they attempt to send out with their films and workability and there is a website on the internet that is helping this happen.

Women Making Films founded by Vaishnavi Sundar is a recently launched website dedicated to establishing an appreciable connectivity among women filmmakers within India as well as the world. Vaishnavi herself being an emerging young director/writer and a strong feminist decided to create a forum organize an online campus for the promotion of filmmakers, their works, blogs, workshops and mentorship programs for everyone including those who are passionate to pursue filmmaking. On the Facebook page, you can find daily featured posts capturing women artists from all over the world along with their achievements and stories. Vaishnavi has written and directed three major films to this date under her own company Lime Soda Films , one of which attained the fame of becoming India’s first ever documentary on fossils.

We have walked into a new yet strange world of complex upshots in which we are bound to doubt the fidelity of progress because of the rigidly existing vicious circle of wrongness, discrimination and tyranny hidden in laughs, adjustments and teasing. Every time a woman marks a peak in her career, be it art, science or sports, it is seen as a revolutionary move but the very same crowd that appreciates it also undermines it in the sense that it is this gender who did that, the gender that wasn’t expected to and the gender that usually is supposed to be regulated by our system. We try to arrange chunks of great progressive achievements by women in filmmaking but we are also very keen to see the world get rid of measures and actions formulated to stand against oppression that we have been overlooking all this time and which is still there, hiding.

Feminism and Filmmaking, when combined forms an intense duo because both of them sustain the propensity to bring change in the society and the names mentioned above are just the dawn of it. Appreciation, recognition and consideration have helped and will help but to get this artistic field liberated from the chains of patriarchy, the base needs to be shaken. A necessity of more forums like the Women Making Movies (USA) and Women Making Films (India) still stays determined in order to strengthen the solidarity of women in media and to glorify this aesthetic subculture of womanism and celluloid because as Edgar Degas put it,

                      “Art is not what you see but what you make others see”

Note: This article was originally posted on – http://nirmukta.com/2016/02/25/films-and-feminism-the-melange-of-progress/

Unnoticed and Prejudiced: What else do we need to know about Mental Illness?

Unnoticed and Prejudiced: What else do we need to know about Mental Illness?

We live in a society that subjects us to develop a behavioral pattern which can perhaps be used as a database to identify us among everyone else. As we grow up in the realms of our ‘nature & nurture’, we begin to progress physically and mentally in accordance with the social norms. When an outright dose of satisfaction runs through our blood and bones to our brain, we can hear ourselves say: “I am mentally healthy”. A little socialist tone to this personal statement of mine doesn’t speak of any rigid definition but a rather informal view of mental health viewed by our society.

I did a case study in December 2015 at the local mental institution for my undergrad program and it was the first time I went inside an open ward with about 20 patients with different types of mental illnesses. What chilled me the most was an air of uncertain sadness around that lobby and I was able to distinguish that environment from a regular hospital. As much care and concern you see and feel in a heart or a cancer clinic couldn’t be observed in that single floored poorly maintained building. Two words came to my mind while I was returning: – ‘Stigma’ & ‘Negligence’. I decided to part this write up into two sections and you might want to pay a close attention to both of them while also trying to establish a correlation between them.

The Unnoticed

“none of it made any sense, and it still doesn’t. No time in his childhood did Aaron have any mood swings or depressive episodes that I would ascribe to ‘severe depression’ and it’s possible, you know, he was depressed. People get depressed.” – Noah Swartz (brother)

Aaron Swartz, 26, committed suicide in his Boston-apartment. He is known for his revolutionary contribution in the field of internet-activism and his humane approach towards making access of knowledge a human right sparked a kindling around the world but amidst all this his “invisible suffering” went unnoticed. While a lot of people pointed towards the cause of his death being the overzealous prosecution by the U.S attorney over the “wrongdoing” Aaron committed at the MIT, most of them failed to connect the actual dots. Most of them failed to realize that what Aaron was dwelling and flourishing in was a techno-subculture that didn’t really care about or understand mental illness and it’s time we understand that the technological elevation is emerging around us fast enough to ensure a series of infrastructural and networking development, but not fast enough to check the psychological functioning of its moulders.

To an intellectual like Aaron, clinical depression was a serious blow regardless of where it came from and the enormous amount of stress Aaron was having and hiding, only magnified it. Over 90% of people who die from suicidal ideation have clinical depression and most of them manage to conceal it. Aaron hanged himself on January 11, 2013 without leaving a suicide note but what he left was a lot for others to ponder upon in order to prevent any more Aarons from slipping into the dark side.

Another such humble person, a pretty happy person actually, took his life a year after Aaron. Robin Williams committed suicide on August 11, 2014, at his home in Paradise Cay, at the age of 63. It was very hard at that time for people like us to figure how a joyous and full-of-life man like Robin would kill himself – “How could a guy like this commit suicide?”, “What would depress him? He had everything.” It is only recently that his wife Susan clarified the actual reason of his death- Lewy Body Dementia – a progressive decline of mental abilities which occurred together with depression.

One in four people in this world suffer or will suffer from some sort of mental illness at some point in their lives, the World Health Report says. The cases of Aaron Swartz and Robin Williams are just two alarming public examples of how much we need to understand and recognize the early signs in our friends, employees and loved ones. There are currently 450 million people suffering from mental illnesses. Take a minute and think about the ones that are going unnoticed, untouched and under-treated.

But there has to be a reason for all this, right? I mean how could we let our loved ones just suffer from a dreadful thing like depression or schizophrenia or bipolar disorder? Shouldn’t they feel enough sense of comfort and safety to be able to open up to us? A lot of people have this question as to why people would hide their mental illness from their families or friends or coworkers?

“All she had to do was say anything, and I would have been on the next plane,”said Terri Weaver, mother of a high-spirited Northwestern University student Alyssa Weaver, who ended her life in November, 2012. Of course any parent/guardian would help their child to get out of all this; all they have to do is tell them about it. They don’t. Why? They are afraid.

The Prejudiced

A one-word answer to the inquiries raised in the last segment is ‘Stigma’- a mark of disgrace associated with a person suffering from mental illness. Max Silverman in his powerful TED talk “Talking about Invisible Illness” provided a stark contrast between the responses his family received when his mother had cancer and the time when his brother was diagnosed with severe bipolar disorder. He added, “People don’t plaster the country in pink ribbons on mental health day, there are no campaigns for mental illness, instead it is shoved behind closed doors and hushed.”

 

The World Health Report that provides the data of people suffering from mental illness also says that two-third of them never seek help because of the stigma, discrimination and the neglect they fear once they’re out and to this day it’s difficult to say exactly how many surveys and research papers it would take for us to understand that stigmatization disables the person more than the disorder itself and no matter how “civilized” the society gets it is THERE, in your corporate offices, in your schools, in your neighborhood. No parents want their kids to hang out with the “problem-child”. No one wants to sit next to that girl in class who hurt herself, she might have a “crazy” gene. That guy who used to be one of the top employees is fired immediately because he was showing “abnormal” behavior which was not good for the office-environment.

For India, the bad news becomes worse from the beginning itself. A major part of rural India turns to the temples and faith healers when it come to mental disorders resulting in horrendous outcomes of witchcraft and superstition, so we cannot even move further to the other topic but even if we do, the problem of prejudice adds with it a blend of other serious prejudices.

“Living with mental illness is never easy, no matter where in the world you live. But it can be particularly hard in India, and even more so if you’re a woman.”

Says Deepali (protective pseudonym), a 46-year-old Yoga teacher in Delhi who was twice committed to the mental institution against her will by her family even though her psychiatrist said she didn’t need that kind of treatment. In a patriarchal society being a woman along with being mentally ill creates conditions that cannot be ignored easily. A recent Human Rights Watch report on the quandary of mentally ill and disabled women in India concluded that such women are often forcefully committed, even if they’re only perceived as having a mental illness.“Women can be easily put in institutions by their relatives, by the police, without their consent,” says Kriti Sharma, the author of that report. “They’re never asked — or even told — why they’re there.”

This is the paragraph where I would suggest Governmental, social and cultural measures, just like in every other article talking about this issue and I WILL do it, but this time with a disgusted expression on my face. Disgusted not because we have to face this, but because we speak so well of our so called “diversification” and development and yet we cannot treat medical conditions like medical conditions.

Fortunately, India now has its first Mental Health policy calling for an increase in funds to provide reasonable and attainable care to those suffering from mental illness. The policy calls for a higher number of mental health professionals to be trained, from community-based counsellors to specialized psychiatrists. At present, India has only one psychiatrist for every 343,000 people. The implementation is still unpredictable not because of the policy’s nature but because we’re stuck. The policies will do their part; will we do ours is the question. Even a basic knowledge of mental illness and its intervention in every school, workplace and home can save a lot of lives. If you think your friend is depressed, talk to them, talk to their parents and loved ones, and somehow just let them know IT’S OKAY. Prejudice exists because there is little or no understanding of mental illness and the only reason there is little or no understanding of it is because prejudice exists . It’s a vicious circle. Take the first step, talk about it.

References

  1. Chatterjee, R. (2015, January 2). One woman in India battles the label, and stigma, of mental illness. Retrieved December 30, 2015, fromhttp://www.pri.org/stories/2015-01-02/one-woman-india-battles-label-and-stigma-mental-illness
  2. Chesley, R. (2012, December 1). Signs of mental illness often go unnoticed. Retrieved December 30, 2015, fromhttp://www.pilotonline.com/news/local/columnist/roger-chesley/signs-of-mental-illness-often-go-unnoticed/article_53694fc9-35e7-54d7-8ca2-882cbdfa4e1f.html
  3. Mental disorders affect one in four people. (n.d.). Retrieved December 30, 2015, from http://www.who.int/whr/2001/media_centre/press_release/en/
  4. Seervai, S. (2014, October 14). India’s New Mental Health Policy: Radical, but Tough to Implement. Retrieved December 30, 2015, fromhttp://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2014/10/14/indias-new-mental-health-policy-radical-but-tough-to-implement/
  5. Sharma, K. (2014, December 3). India: Women With Disabilities Locked Away and Abused. Retrieved December 30, 2015, fromhttps://www.hrw.org/news/2014/12/03/india-women-disabilities-locked-away-and-abused

Sources for the thumbnail image: Aaron, Robin Williams

Note: This article was originally published on: http://nirmukta.com/2016/01/11/unnoticed-and-prejudiced-what-else-do-we-need-to-know-about-mental-illness/