In June,a 35-year-old woman suspected to have been confined to her home in Bangalore for over five years was rescued after neighbours raised concern. A few days later,a 91-year-old man chained and confined to a room was rescued and treated.
Studies conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (Nimhans) have revealed a tendency in urban areas to hide mental illnesses despite higher education levels and availability of healthcare services.
While stigma and discrimination levels are the same in urban and rural areas,the studies showed,those with a mental illness are less likely to be hidden away in rural areas.
Significant differences were seen between rural and urban respondents. Urban respondents felt the need to hide illnesses and did not reveal illness histories while applying for jobs,whereas rural respondents experienced more ridicule,shame and discrimination, according to a Nimhans study titled Experiences of stigma and discrimination endured by people suffering from schizophrenia.
The study tried to look at the subjective experiences of stigma and discrimination by people suffering from schizophrenia in rural and urban environments, said Santosh Loganathan,associate professor of psychiatry at Nimhans.
About three in every 1,000 people in the country suffer from schizophrenia. The illness is treatable and 200 respondents in the Nimhans studies had recovered from the illness.
The study Experiences of stigma and discrimination endured by people suffering from schizophrenia found that urban respondents were reluctant to disclose their illnesses.
Concealment to get a job,get married,own a house cannot be ignored. The comparison showed differences between urban and rural samples,with the rural sample experiencing more ridicule,shame and discrimination. This could be due to the openness in the rural environment,where everyone knows everyone, the study said.
Educating the rural population can be challenging as it is necessary to understand their values,attitudes and explanatory models of illness before starting awareness campaigns. Job-related issues need to be targeted in urban areas. It may not only help deserving individuals get employed but also boost their self-esteem, it said.
Another study titled Living with schizophrenia in India: Gender perspectives said: Men with schizophrenia reported being unmarried,hid their illness in job applications and from others and experienced ridicule and shame. Their experience of stigma was most acute at workplaces. Women reported experiences of stigma in relation to marriage,pregnancy,childbirth.