All Is Not Well With Our Minds

October 9, 2012—Just one day before this year's World Menatl Health Day, 56 year old Varsha Bhosle, a political columnist and journalist and singer Asha Bhosle's daughter, shoots herself to death in her flat in Mumbai. She had reportedly made two suicide attempts in the past and was currently undergoing treatment for depression. Incidentally, the latest figures peg India's suicide rate the second highest in the world with 187,000 suicides taking place in 2010.

October, 2012--In Bhopal a 13 year old boy hangs himself to death after a minor squabble with his younger brother over watching a particular cartoon channel on TV. August, 2012-- A 13 year old son of a roadside stall owner in Nagpur commits suicide by hanging from the ceiling fan with his mother’s dupatta, after being scolded by her for neglecting his studies.

July, 2012—A 38 year old mechanic is arrested in Indore for reportedly drilling holes in his wife’s genitals and locking them with a padlock for 4 long years, and justifies his action by saying that several women in his family had ‘strayed’ in the past, and so he wanted to keep a check on her. July, 2012--Unable to meet dowry demands (colour television, motorbike, tractor and Rs one lakh more in cash) of her in-laws, a 20-year-old woman is allegedly kept locked in a cowshed for three years and repeatedly raped by her husband and his relatives in a village in Madhya Pradesh and then sold to a money lender for Rs 50,000.

April 2012-- Unicef's "Global Report Card on Adolescents 2012", says that 57% of the adolescent boys and 53% of the girls in India think that a husband is justified in hitting or beating his wife. February, 2012-- A 15 year old Class IX student of a Chennai school stabs his teacher to death in the classroom, saying that he was under pressure after the teacher repeatedly sent adverse remarks to his parents.

These are just a few of the innumerable such scary incidents that we come across every day—children taking extreme and violent steps on being scolded at school/doing poorly in studies/petty squabbles with siblings; adolescents indulging in sadistic crimes/suicides of passion at the slightest pretext, erupting like a volcano under pressure; men treating  women with despicable brutality  showing scant regard for human values; and adults behaving in an irrational manner unable to cope with life’s ups and downs.

 Are we a nation of mentally unwell people?

Mental health is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community. Every year on October 10, World Mental Health Day raises public awareness about mental health issues. With depression rising globally and affecting more than 350 million people worldwide, it is apt to choose this year’s theme for the day as“Depression: A Global Crisis.”

Depression is a common mental disorder resulting in negative thoughts of futility of existence, sadness, guilt or low self-esteem, and may often lead one to the drastic consequenceof preferring death over life. The recent sad demise of Varsha Bhosle is the latest eye opener bringing us closer to the dark, dismal world of depressing thoughts. The inability to cope with increased stress, lonely lives, broken relationships, and the absence of social support systems could be the major causes of growing depression among Indians and others. Depression, along with alcohol abuse, societal pressures, and lack of emotional intelligence is pushing more and more Indian youths towards a point of no return.

A report published in the October 2011 edition of The Lancet states that mental health problems, plague not only adults but affect 10%—20% of the children and adolescents worldwide. Despite their long lasting effects throughout life, the mental health needs of children and adolescents are largely neglected, especially in low-income and middle-income countries.

Recently, there has been a spurt in juvenile crimes in India.  According to the latest National Crime Records Bureau Report 2012, crimes involving children increased from 0.8% in 2010 to 11.8% in 2011. 63.9% of the juveniles apprehended under the Indian Penal Code were in the age group of 16-18 years during 2011. Another disturbing trend is the growing number of girl child in crimes which rose to 5.8% in 2011 from 5.1% in 2010.

Crimes against children are also rising at an alarming rate. A total number of 33,098 cases of crime against children were reported in the country in 2011 as compared to 26,694 cases in 2010, suggesting an increase of 24%. Delhi, the capital city of India is the most unsafe for children, boasting of the highest crime rate of 25.4% against them.

Snuffing out lives (of self and others) apart, we seem to be hurtling downhill in our day to day relationships and interactions with others. While there is a mad scramble to increase one’s intelligence quotient as a ticket to material success, we rarely ever think of nurturing our emotional quotient. The results are obvious— we feel happy in making others sad and are saddened by others’ happiness; we easily buckle under failure and get bloated with success; we are intolerant to anything  which happens to be different from our liking;  we find it difficult to take no for an answer. Wither are the emotions of love, tolerance, humility and empathy? Are we losing them on the way as we labour hard to win the race which we are running with the rats? We either lavish too much praise and/or material comforts on our children or berate them constantly for not meeting our expectations. Peer pressure, unbridled freedom, poor tolerance levels and a consumerist attitude are making adults and children/adolescents socially maladjusted and disoriented.

We cannot play the melody of life with its varied tones and overtones on stretched and tense nerves. The human body (and mind) is different from a musical instrument. Its strings require just so much of tension and no more, else it is bound to snap. So learn to play on with rhythmic ease without over stretching so that all remains well. Enjoy the sunsets of life as much as its dawns--interspersed with darkness-- as all good things come to an end for better ones to follow.

 Shobha Shukla - CNS
(The author is the Managing Editor of Citizen News Service (CNS). She is a J2J Fellow of National Press Foundation (NPF) USA. She received her editing training in Singapore, has worked earlier with State Planning Institute, UP and taught physics at India's prestigious Loreto Convent. She also authored a book on childhood TB (2012), co-authored a book (translated in three languages) "Voices from the field on childhood pneumonia" and a report on Hepatitis C and HIV treatment access issues in 2011. Email:, website: 

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