The cultural context in India undeniably aggravates women’s mental health concerns, emphasizing the need for gender-specific mental healthcare.

There’s no doubt about the fact that the world has witnessed significant advancements in healthcare and societal norms over the past century. However, hushed conversations around mental health persist, especially when it comes to women. It was not very long ago that women in the Western world were put through procedures as invasive and barbaric as lobotomies under the guise of mental health treatment. While methods have definitely evolved, the stigma surrounding women’s mental health and the lack of adequate care are problems that still very much endure.

It is widely accepted in medicine that gender is a key determinant of mental health, as there are differences in the needs and experiences of people of different genders. Biological differences (in addition to social factors) keep women more vulnerable than men to mental health disorders. Estrogen and progesterone make women more susceptible to developing fear and anxiety as they regulate mood and cognition. Reproductive health and pregnancy-related mental illnesses also contribute to the disproportion. However, in India specifically, another reason for the need for gender-specific care is realized when we look at the intensity of how social factors determine women’s mental health in India.

The patriarchy is not unique to our country, but the ways in which it is upheld today are strikingly more severe than most. The preference for the male child and subsequent lower educational status of women, stricter standards for behaviour, early marriage, and the subservient role in the marriage household are all common parts of the lifestyle of an average Indian woman. These factors, coupled with the alarming rates of domestic violence, contribute to the occurrence and treatment of mental health disorders among Indian women.

As of October 2021, the majority of those facing mental health issues in India were women, but the obstacles associated with seeking assistance deterred them from doing so. Women in Indian society are expected to be the sole caretakers of not just the children in the family but also the adults. Even in ‘modern’ households where they might not exactly be expected to do so, women tend to assume responsibility for the same because such are the effects of deeply ingrained patriarchy. When women barely give up on such ‘duties’ while physically sick, it’s easy to understand why a study mentioned that they are apprehensive to seek mental health care in fear of being rendered useless and becoming a burden to their families. In fact, that is exactly how society perceives women with serious mental health struggles, as a study showed that such women are twice as likely to experience physical and sexual abuse as the general female population in India.

It is thus very evident that gender-specific mental health care is an imperative in India, and although we’ve seen notable progress in the past decade, it unfortunately remains accessible primarily to a privileged demographic within the metropolitan cities. The path towards extending this care to all of India will require elevating societal awareness, encouraging open dialogue, and advocating for reforms in healthcare policy. It is a long road, but one that needs to commence because women’s mental health is not some marginal concern but an integral component of society’s well-being.

Read also: Who Protects Our ‘Safe’ Spaces?

Featured image credits: ABP Live

Arshiya Pathania

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Having been let down by women, two egoist and patriarchal characters go down the path of self-destruction, although one is heroic the other is not.

In a contemporary urban location, there is a rich egoist male who falls in love- this is a very common heroic pursuit in mainstream Bollywood, and the 2009 Anurag Kashyap (who has a certain Samuel Fuller and Aronofsky vibe to him) directed the movie Dev.D, and took on this trait to reveal very ironically how flawed a hero can be.

Image Credits: Film Week
Image Credits: Film Companion 

Adapted from Sarat Chandra’s Devdas, this movie is a romantic black comedy musical, with more preference to music than dialogues. Music by Amit Trivedi  fits perfectly with the scenes in the movie.

Dev is a chauvinist who took his childhood love Paro for granted, at one time slapped and embarrassed her, and thought that he actually loved her. He also once believed that she would be the only woman he’d ever love- again a common narrative that there’s just ‘the one’ and no one else.

Dev later realises that his love was flawed, he was flawed, and Paro never returns back to him. It’s not just the utter vulnerability in Dev’s character, but a fresh empowering effervescence of strong female characters which makes the film stand out.

Image Credits: Film Companion
Image Credits: Film Companion

A decade later, comes the movie that proves we are back to square one. Sandeep Vanga directed Kabir Singh which is a remake of Telugu film Arjun Reddy is a story about an egoist, entitled, chauvinist with anger issues who falls in love. The sound track went popular and so did the problematic aspects wrapped up nicely as the charisma of Kabir Singh. As a promoter of independent cinema, and appraiser of a film like Dev.D, I would never object to the portrayal of a problematic character like Kabir Singh who is after all, inspired from our society. An added bonus with Kabir Singh was that it was made with intention to appropriate his flaws and was received largely in the same horizon.

In my personal opinion, I feel that Kabir Singh did teach us a thing or two. It validated that the popular opinion still is to plaudit the hero with underlying misogyny and the success of such a film is representative in the profits it made. Also for all the wrong reasons, it did start a big discussion on male chauvinism. There’s a parallel in the society itself which is depictive of the two kinds of films discussed above, and the popularity and financial success of such movies will always reflect the popular status quo of us as a society.

Feature Image Credits: Filmistaan

Umaima Khanam

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