When Bigotry Impedes Help – Consequences Of Having Therapists Who Discriminate

When Bigotry Impedes Help – Consequences Of Having Therapists Who Discriminate

This article has been edited and upgraded with more information, sources and significant points. The growing preference therapists who are “non-judgmental” in terms of contradictory beliefs and views of their patients has seen a rise. Some incidents have come to light in the past which I have mentioned in the article. They speak of horrible experiences the clients have had in their sessions because they opened up to their therapists about the way they see society, sexual orientation etc. Women and LGBT community are the target victims of this.

PSruminates

According to Dr. Mathew Varghese, professor and head of psychiatry at NIMHANS, there are about 4000 psychiatrists, 1000 psychologists and 3000 mental health social workers in India. This saddening inadequacy has numerous reasons in a country with an attitude and mindset so regressive towards mental health that immorality takes a peculiar turn when prejudice comes in the way. India is taking heavy steps to walk towards seeing a day that is free of persecution but it seems like way too long a shot for a country that has itself muddled in a bog of ideologies fighting with each other to gain dominance.

It’s time we talk about this unnerving situation where a therapist denies treatment to a person or shame him/her for having contradictory views about society, politics, gender roles or sexual orientation. The range extends covering almost the entire marginalised community. A plight of such inauspicious incidents have taken a big toll on…

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Films and Feminism: The Melange of Progress.

Films and Feminism: The Melange of Progress.

PSruminates

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’

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Rob DenBleyker’s ‘Depressing Comics’ have a purposeful message for all of us.

Rob DenBleyker’s ‘Depressing Comics’ have a purposeful message for all of us.

<<Trigger Warning: Depression>>

*Scroll..scroll..scroll*

Everyday we scroll through our news feeds projecting a mere computation of our thoughts, feelings and impulses. And like any upskilled scroll-er we make a few stops- stuff that is important! Rob Deynblaker’s heart-touching strip-comic page Cyanide & Happiness is one of these major halts.

by Cyanide & Happiness
by Cyanide & Happiness

Articulated in the soberest of illustrations these comics gouge out the inner dark corners of its viewers with their unexpected extrapolations. The uneventful humour touches the world of dark comedy in the right spot and every last frame of every strip is an awaited experience.

Recently was the ‘depressing comic week’. A small series of tiny heart-wrenching chronicles that left everyone to spare a minute out of their lives to do nothing but “feel the feels” in silence.

Comic by Cyanide & Happiness
Comic by Cyanide & Happiness

As all kinds of comments started shrieking the posts on Rob’s page expressing their conscience of finding the funny in everything, a lot of them seem to have overlooked an important message in this.

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There is no doubt in the appreciation of Rob’s creation because there is no concealed joke or an ending punchline in any of these comics as they steadily put what happened in these poor people’s  lives and speaks of the justice he has done to the title.

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Comic by Cyanide & Happiness

But along the lines of understandable comments like “This isn’t funny anymore” or finding-the-funny ones like “This is why you don’t lie to kids, they take things quite literally.”, people let slide the positively attached encryption.

Comic by Cyanide & Happiness
Comic by Cyanide & Happiness

Rob’s comics are able to let us peek into the blanketed heads of people who tediously struggle everyday with their lives breathing along with their demised aspirations and rotten thoughts.  How it happened is a question of the past, but the truth is that it HAS HAPPENED and it sucks on a medical level.

Depression being one of the most stigmatized of medical conditions is hardly given any chance of discussion in social circles and when it falls into the hands of comedians, there are very few who have been able to correctly illustrate it without letting it slip into the dark well of absolute ableism.

Louie Ck is another one who does it beautifully in his observational sitcom Louie, that embraces the loud discomfort of being in a stressed state and delineates the most poetic expression of awkwardness.

Comedian Louie ck in 'Louie'
Comedian Louis ck in ‘Louie’

“It never stopped getting worse. I remember thinking, ‘This is too much for me to handle. I wanted to give up. I knew it was my right to. But then a few minutes would go by and I’d realize, I’m still here. In other words, there was no escape from it. And I’d be a little disappointed at not being truly suicidal. I hated being ‘all right.'” – Louie ck

Depression and comedy is an irrefutably dangerous combination but it swifts into a useful medium when thrown in the right manner. Along with being an accurate pointer towards a serious issue, the comics also stand out when it comes to saying out loud “Not every thing is supposed to be funny” which is quite a courageous thing to do in today’s world.

More of this could be an integral chance to generate casualness in talks about depression. Another reason for this could be to multiply the mental health activism from a discussion in a goal-oriented consequential meet-up, to of a small talk between two friends sharing these comic links with each other. That’s where normalcy begins and stigma suffers. In a plight of those suffering in silence, these comics can serve as a catalyst to initiate more talking and increase casual considerations.

When Bigotry Impedes Mental Healthcare

When Bigotry Impedes Mental Healthcare

According to Dr. Mathew Varghese, professor and head of psychiatry at NIMHANS, there are about 4000 psychiatrists, 1000 psychologists and 3000 mental health social workers in India. This stark inadequacy, given the population of this country, is compounded by the widespread social stigma attached to mental health, both acting together to prevent individuals from accessing the care they need. As if these were not enough, we have to contend with yet another obstacle that embraces a bigoted attitude of mental health professionals towards sexual and gender minorities- women and members of other marginalised groups.

It’s time we talk about this unnerving situation where a therapist denies treatment to a person or shames them for having contradictory views about society or politics, gender roles, identities, or normative sexual orientations. Such prejudice targets many marginalised communities, and continues to take a big toll on LGBTQIA+ people as well as on (cis, heterosexual) women.  Shockingly, none of these occurrences of blatant discrimination get reported in the media and there lies no way to report them.

The recently passed Mental Health Care Bill induces an element of hope. Clause 21(1)(a) states, “there shall be no discrimination on any basis including gender, sex, sexual orientation, religion, culture, caste, social or political beliefs, class or disability”. But the hassle still remains as to which group of professionals are or aren’t prejudiced and how one evaluates that, because it shouldn’t be on the expense of a further deteriorating mental health of the person in question.

Pervasive prejudice among healthcare continues to target patients based on caste. For instance, a survey on untouchability in rural India found that Dalits in over 21% of villages were restricted from entering private medical care centers. Dalit women in parts of Uttar Pradesh were barred from receiving health care during pregnancy. A concern for mental health sounds too much of a far-fetched approach when basic medical provisions are in denial to the community. Given this scenario, it seems hardly surprising that sexual orientation and gender would be exempt from discrimination.

Homophobia, transphobia, sexism and misogyny are worldwide phenomena. However, they seem most vicious in societies and communities bound by religious beliefs and traditions that fiercely uphold the patriarchal norm, and dismiss any alternate way of life. This is by no means restricted to India. In August 2016, the Governor of the state of Tennessee (U.S) passed a bill allowing therapists to deny therapy to individuals from the LGBTQ communities. This bill is part of a wave of bigoted legislation across the US that seeks to institutionalise discrimination against LGBT people, such as  North Carolina’s Bathroom Bill.

Guidelines such as those of the American Psychological Association (APA) for psychological practice with lesbian, gay, and bisexual clients, adopted in 2011, lay down best practices based on clinical research and practice.

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(AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

Despite the availability of such guidelines, and studies that have resulted in a growing body of evidence suggesting LGBT youth are at higher risk for major depression, generalised anxiety disorder, substance abuse, suicidal behavior, sexual risk taking, and poor general health care than their heterosexual counterparts, mental healthcare providers in India and elsewhere treat homosexuality and bisexuality as pathological conditions to be “cured” [see work by Vinay Chandran and Arvind Narrain, and Ketki Ranade]

A friend says: “ I was talking about my nightmares to my therapist and while in the middle of that I accidentally told him that I am a bisexual and out of nowhere he just slapped me and asked me to go away. The incident did make me badly depressed, took a toll on my health and everything. I already have ADD and OCD and that’s what I was seeing the therapist for. So the depression just doubled from there and although now I have overcome it slightly, it still keeps on running in my head.” – Vinay (Name changed)

Such prejudice on the part of mental health professionals is not restricted to just LGBT people. Heterosexual women are subjected to a barrage of “suggestions” and “treatment methods” that are polluted by the system of patriarchy. Those seeking professional help for issues such as depression get pathologized if they do not choose to live “by the rules”. Women are slut-shamed, body-shamed, victim-blamed and coerced to conform to traditional “Indian values”. Such treatment, besides being grossly unethical, ends up vitiating the depression one has already been caged in.

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Carelessness can also be observed. Being told to look at the less fortunate lives to overcome the ongoing depression or propagating religiosity as treatment to surpass stress are some of such widely performed ill treatments. These heart rending experiences by two women speak for themselves –

“I have borderline personality disorder. Got diagnosed at a very young age and was taken to several psychologists and psychiatrists. While some gave me heavy doses of medication without hearing me out properly, others gave me huge lectures on morality about how my lifestyle and opinions are very wrong for a ‘girl’ and how I am difficult and should be more passive. I had been in an abusive relationship for a long time and my previous psychologists slut-shamed me for having sex with that person out of marriage and kept calling me a “psychotic” all the time” – Shruti (Name changed)

“My first psychiatrist told my parents that being 24 years old, I should have been married by now and have started a family of my own as my unmarried status was the root of my depression. He ignored when I said that I’ve very low emotional quotient and it’s very difficult for me to recognize feelings. The second one repeatedly kept asking if there was violence at home and how do I know that I get anxiety attacks. He mocked me in every session. When I informed him about the side effects I have been having from the prescribed drugs, he asked me not to blame the drugs. I then refused to respond to his queries. Finally, he rudely asked me and my parents to leave.” – Priyanka (Name changed)

While minorities in India are still fighting for basic human rights, access to unstigmatized mental health care has become a very significant part of social justice.  NGOs and community collectives working on feminist, LGBTIQ* or caste issues can advocate with mental health professionals to generate this much needed flexibility and open-mindedness.

middle aged woman talking to psychologist

More broadly, Indian therapists must learn to work non-judgmentally with clients whose social, cultural, political, sexual and religious views may diverge widely from their own. Having biased professionals in the field not only impacts provision of much-needed quality mental health care but also impedes the ongoing battle for social justice.

Knowledge, sensitivity and a rational attitude towards the client’s personal issues are essential. There is a dire need to include minority, feminist and LGBTQ* issues within academic courses and training. These should comprise of detailed and culturally relevant content on how minority stress and institutionalized prejudice impact women, lower castes, LGBTQ*, and other excluded groups.

LGBT-affirmative psychotherapy has been a tremendous step in helping LGBT clients accept their sexual orientation and/or gender identity Practiced mostly in the west this acceptance is a must for the regular Indian therapists. Donald Clark, the first openly homosexual psychologist, says the following in one of his extended interviews:

“Gay people do not grow up in gay families. The vast majority of the time, they do not have any support around who they are. There is nothing comparable in the human experience. It is as if the gay child is the result of having an egg from outer space planted in the uterus of the mother.There is nothing comparable in the human experience. It is as if the gay child is the result of having an egg from outer space planted in the uterus of the mother”

On a similar note, Feminist therapy has its roots in the interventions by women psychotherapists during the U.S. feminist movement of the 1960s. Such feminist therapeutic approaches  also need to be adapted for the Indian cultural context.

When bigotry impedes psychological therapy and other mental healthcare provisions, it not only worsens the condition of the patient but also holds back humanity as a whole. In a country where privilege becomes a persona, we are asking for an affordable and accessible mental health care for those in need and it is demanding a separate streak of struggle. It’s high time to appear concerned for there remains a limited time to fix such quandaries.

A version of this article has appeared on Nirmukta and Orinam.

The Psychology of Oppression.

The Psychology of Oppression.

Tyrannies have long managed to proffer the people a decided amount of air to breathe and regulations to heed But we are so keen on saying the phrase “things have changed now” that we almost overlook the left-out roots of the oppressive tendencies in humans as social animals.“Why does the oppressor oppresses?” is the inquiry that comes to mind, but “Where does the oppressor learn to oppress?” should be a more relevant question. It’s true that civilization began with patriarchy already injected in its veins, but it is also true that it still wheezes in its own concealed form in all corners of humanity.

In a similar manner there are different kinds of oppression that have stayed in the society both silently and aggressively. Caste oppression is a highlighting example of it. While most of the upper caste community makes sure they have the latest technology in their households, they also make sure that their children marry in the same caste. When confrontation strikes, disputes turn into an ugly trail of sadistic atrocities. Two Dalit children were burnt alive last year’s October when the upper caste Rajputs burnt an entire house over a long-lasted dispute. With the violent and extreme ones taking their places, there are also the casual ones that lurk around the whole community becoming the cause of an accepted humiliation. This acceptance is also a part of the oppression, where the humiliation a dalit faces on a daily basis also needs to be accepted as a “justification” to the bigger picture by the population. The “justification” being the same old argument of  the varna system passed around in discussions.

This article intends to scrutinize the oppressor’s mind. Any kind of oppressor –mainly an upper caste male – because they are packed to the neck by the privileges accorded to them in an Indian society. I will intend to try and establish a relationship between the psychological and sociological theories I’ve come across along with the oppressor’s tendencies which enables him to conform to the environment he has been living in since childhood. The motive is to break down certain idiosyncrasies and perceive them from a rational and psychological stand because it feels like a ground-level necessity to see persecution from not just an institutionalized perspective but also a behavioral proclivity.

The school of advanced research (SAR) conducted an advanced seminar in April 2015 to discuss the psychological characteristics of patriarchy and how one (male or female) complies himself/herself to either accommodate or resist the system’s ideology. Co-chaired by Adriana Manago, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Western Washington University and Holly F. Mathews, Professor, Department of Anthropology, East Carolina University, a group of experienced research scholars sat down to explore new theories that unravel the patriarchal mindset and belief system.

 “Our purpose,” reported co-chairs, Adriana Manago and Holly Mathews, “was to investigate how patriarchy works psychologically and to probe the reasons why women sometimes adhere or accommodate to ideologies that oppress and disenfranchise them while at other times they resist and subvert them.”

The questions rose stuck to the instinctive psychological characteristics that are recruited or reinforced into any form of society, be it work, family or public places. Motivation was also a factor that was chosen to be discussed as a trait but the focus remained on how child socialization works to preserve this questioned behavioral ingredient that countenance patriarchy at homes and other social contexts. Simply speaking, what exactly drives the dominant gender to stay dominant?

Hierarchical socialization is the concept that was put as a remedy, not exactly a remedy to the system but a remedy to the knowledge.It refers to an detailed order of rank, a ‘who belongs at what place’ initiative and the compulsion of it being understood and followed  through generations.

A similar acceptance is noticed in the caste-based discrimination where mortification through identity degradation becomes a key factor. Dalit community still faces a number of incidents where its identity brings the humiliation it was probably ready to face. It starts right from the time when a person belonging to a lower caste is asked to repeat his surname, so the listener can avoid him or later exclude him  from his acquaintance.

In a paper by Evelin Gerda Lindner on the theory of Humiliation which was written for Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies, she devised 4 major variants of Humiliation- Conquest, Relegation, and Reinforcement, & Exclusion. Humiliation from caste identity falls under the third category – reinforcement humiliation – which is achieved through routine abuse of these supposed inferiors in order to maintain the perception that they are, indeed, inferior.

Now, let’s glean a few theories and processes from social psychology and try to run them through the patterns of oppression mainly for women and dalits and strive to understand where the stream of continuation comes from. We might know and comprehend the tendency well; we just overlook them when it happens before our eyes.

Social Dominance Theory

Social Dominance Theory is a multi level theory postulated by Felicia Pratto and Andrew L. Stewart. It is a layered theory about how groups in societies maintain their dominance over the minorities. In social dominance theory, the dominant group enjoys more privileges and mainly receives larger recognition. Intersectional oppression such as sexism is also included with men  holding more power than women and how processes at different levels of social organization, from cultural ideologies and institutional discrimination to gender roles and the psychology of prejudice, work together to produce stable group-based inequality.

SDT supports to why people use casual and workplace sexism to degrade women in an even fairly stable society as it uses – force and institutional discrimination, legitimizing myths (legitimizing myths are widely known within a society and are linked to the basic cultural cosmology in ways that make them seem self-apparently true) and social dominance orientation which requires people to endorse such hierarchal persecution (including sexism, sexual orientation prejudice, racism, nationalism)

Child Socialization

For a developmental procedure, it’s a significant one. For a behavior promoting persecution, it is a reason. Socialization refers to the lifelong process of inheriting and disseminating norms, beliefs, customs and ideologies which start from childhood. Socialization begins from home and children adhere to not just their language and religion but also what “not to pay attention to”. Think about socialization in India where in an upper caste Brahmin home, a child begins his journey into understanding the outside world rather than toys and blocks. Which group to go and which group not to go .You’re probably thinking about the parents right now and to an extent you’re right. It does start from there and when later, one decides to break free of such prejudices it even ends there. Children are observers and a lot of observant learning takes place in this time – who is the mother avoiding to touch? Why is the father trying to shoo away that person? Why does the maid have a different glass and why does she drink from the tap?

In a research paper highlighting the relationship between parental racial attitudes and children’s implicit prejudice, a greater correspondence was found between parent’s prejudice and the prejudice of children who identified a lot with them. Unfortunately there are nil researches done to investigate how child socialization in an Indian upper caste family promotes caste-based discrimination. If done, I think we will be able to tackle the damage with more rationality and scientific interpretation. Socialization is a thick undertaking and often conforms to not just parents but also peers and to analyze it from a perspective so crucial, more research needs to be done.

Social Learning Theory

A well-documented theory for aggression which also explains how an individual, especially a child learns from their mentors. Not only is it widely applicable to men and women, girls and boys and members of all the age levels, but it also has been continually modified and developed over the past 40 years so as to incorporate new findings. People, especially children tend to learn aggressive behavior by either observing their mentors (observant) or by receiving favorable reactions from them (reinforcement). To initiate an illustration a child born in an upper caste family can and will learn how the people he look up to, treat the lower caste community and the bombshell is, it is not just about the aggressive confrontations like violence if came in contact but also the established generalizations that are discussed within the family regarding the community. The wide acceptance of this theory for a structured assimilation of oppressive behavior is also due to its coverage of external stimuli i.e. the people. The social learning theory was formulated by Albert Bandura and is a well- supported theory not just for aggression but also for micro-aggressions, which is a common tactic used to suppress women because we live and laugh in these environments and pick strategies like tone policing and passive aggressive commentary to perpetuate a consistency of oppression. Children in their teens adapt an informal collection of them which grows up to become the big bundle of sexism and misogyny just because it is accepted that way, candidly at first, aggressively later.

The transition of subjection is a bigger complication here because we also must learn to interpret its sources as well as how it runs through people and their minds. There is a requisite to get more and more research done on how caste discrimination and gender discrimination is actually grasped from the very beginning because that’s where it needs to be stopped. Socialization and theories like the social learning theory have influenced and continue to influence the developmental stages of a human being. We are the ones to add to it and we are the ones to discard things from it.

It depends very well on us to pay attention to what we are talking about, what we are indoctrinating to our offspring’s minds and to think about whether we are teaching them that everyone is free to love whoever they want to, regardless of their gender. We need to consciously check if we are expecting them to conform to their gender roles, or if we expect them to be comfortable to the sex or gender deemed perfect for them as per society’s unscientific rules. It’s a salient feature at an evolutionary stage and there is an necessity to disseminate the right information to a growing individual. We are living in a society that is adamantly leading itself into a dark grotto of regressive behaviorism and ambiguous doctrines and there is a scarcity of people who dare to take one step further and try to recognize their privileges. We desperately need more people like that and it can only happen if we water these our ‘plants’ of reason and empathy regularly.

This article was originally published on : http://nirmukta.com/2016/04/07/the-psychology-of-oppression-an-attempt-to-understand-the-oppressors-mind/

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.