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Live Love Laugh Foundation Unveils Landmark Report On Public Perception Towards Mental Health In India

The event highlighted the importance of focused stigma-reduction programmes in mental health initiatives

In 2017, the live love laugh foundation which was founded by Deepika Padukone in 2015, commissioned a five-month study to gauge mental help perception in India. The live laugh love foundation 2018 National Survey Report: ‘How India Perceives Mental Health covered 3,556 respondents across eight Indian cities'.

The report was released today by Sanjeeva Kumar, Additional Secretary, Department of Health & Family Welfare, Deepika Padukone, Founder - TLLLF, Anna Chandy, Chair of TLLLF’s Board of Trustees and Dr Shyam Bhat, Trustee - TLLLF.

Market research agency, Kantar Public, undertook the research for the study on behalf of TLLLF.

Interestingly the report has revealed three broad segments of people based on their attitudes towards mental illness:

  • Segment 1 (27%) - Those who indicate support for people perceived as having mental illness. They would not discriminate against people with mental illness and predominantly believe that anyone can suffer from mental illness.
  • Segment 2 (47%) - Those who are judgmental against people perceived as having a mental illness.
  • Segment 3 (26%): This group comprises individuals who display fear towards people perceived as having mental illness.

A few interesting findings of the report:

87% of respondents associate mental illness with severe disorders (like schizophrenia and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and their symptoms. Illustrating the poor understanding of the broad spectrum of mental illness, respondents were unlikely to associate mental illness with symptoms of more common mental disorders such as anxiety, when describing people with mental illness.

The survey also revealed a high prevalence of stigma with 47% of people using the word “retard” to describe people with mental illness. Further, 60% of respondents believe that people with mental illness “should have their own groups to avoid contaminating healthy people” and 68% believe that they “should not be given any responsibility". 60% believe that mental illness is caused by a “lack of self-discipline and willpower”.

6 out of 10 individuals believe that mental illness is caused by a lack of self-discipline and willpower. 

A little more than half of the participants express fear at least sometimes, towards people with mental illness.

However, almost half of the participants used words such as ‘Retard’ or ‘Crazy/Mad/Stupid’ while describing people with mental illness.

The findings illustrate the often ignored, but critical role of stigma-reduction programmes in addressing mental health.

The endeavour is to set a baseline for future studies and provide other foundations with data to build on.

Speaking at the launch, Deepika Padukone, Founder, TLLLF said, “This research initiative is part of our ongoing efforts to build a better understanding about mental health in our country. Our research shows that only over a quarter of the respondents are willing to be supportive in many aspects, while the remaining are either judgmental or fearful of those affected with mental illness. This is an extremely unfortunate situation for us to be in. It is absolutely critical that we as a society work together towards increasing awareness, reducing stigma and normalizing the need to seek support for mental illness."

Anna Chandy, Chairperson – The Board of Trustees at TLLLF, pointed out that, “Traditionally and historically, India is a collectivistic society, now slowly moving towards a more individualistic one.”

She shared that, “This transition is evident in the data presented in the report. In larger cities, we see a more dramatic shift towards individualism, possibly due to an increase in the amount of access to information and migrant need for survival. However, smaller cities like Kanpur and Patna seem to retain some of their collectivistic roots, and are moving towards an individualistic society at a slower pace.”

Noting that mental health had to be looked at holistically, she said, “Focussing both on decreasing stigma and increasing awareness is the key. By inculcating collectivist practices into our more individualistic lifestyles we can shape the conversation to build an inclusive society to a) provide support to people with mental illness; and b) Increase India’s awareness about mental health concerns”.

The release of the report was followed by a panel discussion on the findings, moderated by Dr. Shyam Bhat MD, Trustee -TLLLF. Panelists at the discussion included Anna Chandy (TLLLF), Dr. Soumitra Pathare (Centre for Mental Health Law and Policy at the Indian Law Society, Pune) and Siddharta Swarup (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation).

The dialogue focused on how to create a new language, overall narrative change and a paradigm shift whereby societal perceptions are changed and people with mental health are no longer considered anonymous.


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