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HOW TO CURB FARMER SUICIDES?

MADHYA PRADESH EXPLORES AVENUES

 

From L.S. Herdenia

 

BHOPAL: Psychiatrists can play a major and decisive role in checking suicides by farmers. This claim was made at the conference of Psychiatrists held in Bhopal. It was suggested that governments should seek the help of Psychiatrists and use a holistic multipronged approach to prevent farmers from taking such an extreme step.

 

The four-day conference of Indian Psychiatric society discussed various issues relating to mental problems of the people, the lack of doctors, social stigma attached to mental disease, absence of research and effect of internet over use and mobile in triggering mental problems. Shortcomings in the Mental Care Bill pending in the Rajya Sabha was yet another item which was discussed at the conference.

 

The World Psychiatric Association’s first-ever Indian-origin president Prof Dinesh Bhugra said that instead of playing down farmer suicides, the Indian government should seek the help of psychiatrists and use a holistic multi-pronged approach to prevent farmers from taking such an extreme step.

 

Bhugra spoke to media on the sidelines of the conference of the Indian Psychiatric Society. Over 2,500 delegates, including 1,800 psychiatrists participated in the conference, which was held for the first time in Bhopal, according to Dr Vaibhav Dubey, organising secretary of the conference.

 

“Mental health cannot be looked in isolation. If you want a mentally healthy society, a society where farmers don’t commit suicides, you have to deal with the issue in a holistic manner. You have to deal with education, economy, employment, law and a whole range of other issues collectively. The approach has to be multi-pronged and accordingly the government has to tweak its policy. Then only farmer suicides or other issues related to mental health could be approached in the right way,” said Bhugra, who is professor of Mental and Cultural Diversity at Maudsley International Health Service and Population Research Department David Goldberg Centre United Kingdom.

 

Bhugra, who is also a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, stressed that farmers in India were committing suicides as there was no social support system when they faced a crisis.

 

He said the government should give basic training in mental health to all Allopathic, Homeopathic, Ayurvedic and Unani doctors, besides health staff at the ground level so that they could identify people suffering from mental disorders and counsel them to seek treatment from the nearest psychiatrist.

 

Bhugra said he was optimistic about India. “See India is a culture in transition. Ultimately it will find its balance. The question is whether it actively seeks to gain that balance by being aware of the pitfalls or the balance will come in future on its own. India, unlike West, has advantage on two fronts. Indians have a strong sense of spirituality and family. Both these factors act as a support system, a buffer for people here when they are having a rough time,” he added.

 

Most of the participants regretted that in our country not only mental patients are neglected but even the doctors of this field are also neglected. There is virtual no presence of doctors to treat mental disease in government hospitals. The country does not have enough doctors to take care of mental patients. There total number of doctors in this field is less than six thousand.

 

The conference expressed concern over some of the major shortcomings in the Mental Health Care Bill pending in the Rajya Sabha.

 

Dr. Mrugesh Vaishanav felt we should create a public movement with regard to the drawbacks in the MHCB. We can approach all the MPs and reach the public through media. All places should organize rallies. He said that he proposed a rally in Hyderabad. An Action Committee for the sole purpose should be created immediately and a movement should be generated.

 

Dr CL Narayan said the position of IPS is to reject the entire bill. But as it appears difficult at this stage, he suggested that the Society should think of modifications and accordingly it should formulate the priorities. In his opinion excluding the General Hospital psychiatry units from the purview should be a major issue. He also wondered that the representation of psychiatrists in both state and central mental health authorities is negligible. Dr. Suwalka said that before meeting the ministers and other authorities, we should be very clear in our understanding and demands. Dr. Jagiwala said that attempts could be made from Gujarat for getting an appointment with Mr. Narendra Modi. Dr. Rajeev Jain felt the issue of mental care bill is very important. We cannot fight like trade unions. He felt that emphaszing the exclusion of General Hospital Psychiatry Units alone is not good and should think of other lacunae in the bill. He recalled the efforts of central zone having organized a workshop on Mental Health Care Bill. Dr. Brahma suggested that the position statement of IPS should be uploaded in the website. Dr Roy Abraham felt that the office bearers should meet the Health Secretary. He recalled the cooperation extended by the earlier health secretary Dr. Desiraju. He suggested that NGOs and families of patients should be engaged, sensitize all MPs, meet PM/HM/CMs if possible and IMA under new President, a neurosurgeon should be roped in.

 

Dr. Asokan felt that we were fighting a losing battle and we should explore possibilities of taking legal action by way of PIL. It is better to approach judiciary than politician or bureaucrats. Dr. Ponnudurai said PIL can be thought only if the bill is enacted. Dr. Indira Sharma suggested that instead of criticizing, we should submit our recommended changes to the Government and PIL should be an option. Dr Rajeev Jain said let EC decide with regard to line of action to be taken. Dr. Vinod Kulkarni felt PIL can be filed even if the bill is not enacted. Dr. Nambi endorsed the view of Dr. Asokan, Dr. CL Narayan said as the bill is still pending with Rajya Sabha, PIL may not be admitted. Dr. Brahma felt that individual letters be written to all MPs and voice of every practitioner should be heard. Dr. Sarvesh Chandra felt minister will not listen to us. Dr. Prasad Rao said Mental Health Care Bill is one among eighteen bills pending in Rajya Sabha. While agreeing with Dr. Nambi and Dr. Asokan that legal option should be a serious thought, he was planning to use his proximity with central minister, Shri Bandaru Dattatreya and MPs like Dr. Naraasayya to bring to their notice.

 

The conference also discussed the role of overuse of internet, tabs, mobile phones triggering neurobiological changes in the brain like drugs and in fast settling as an addiction. According to Indian Psychiatric Society president, G.L. Prasad Rao, the increase in internet penetration, use of smart phones at a younger age and growth of information technology in general were contributing to the addiction. The age group 11 to 25 is particularly vulnerable. But, we have found that it was also affecting other age groups too, like middle-aged people.

 

The World Psychiatric Association’s first Indian-origin president Dinesh Bhugra, however, said that more studies were required to identify how internet and cell phones were affecting people and their relationships.

 

I think internet is an evolving medium and it will ultimately arrive at some balance on its own, with its users coming up with some sort of code or guidelines for its proper usage, he said. There was need to assess as to at which age parents needed to expose their children to internet and mobiles.

 

Murshidabad Medical College psychiatry head Ranjan Bhattacharyya, who had been engaged in a research on the issue, claimed that the addiction to modern gadgets and technologies across generation had increased about four times. He quoted a study in this regard.

 

Bhattacharyya said internet as a new mode of communication had ended up weakening family bonds as emoticons have replaced emotions, “People now prefer to socialise on internet more and more rather than face-to-face” he said. The habit takes over gradually, “It starts as an impulsive activity and gradually develops into a compulsive activity due to neuro-adaptation. This is fuelling internet and mobile phone addiction. (IPA Service)