Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Deepika's Dips

A few days back I had tweeted in jest – is it ok to lust over someone who one has seen as a baby? The reference was to the young ‘Diva’ Deepika Padukone. As a toddler, she used to come regularly to my then boss’ apartment – neighbour of the Padukones in Bangalore - to play with their daughters.  After the “cleavage” controversy Deepika made news again by talking openly about her recent tryst with depression (click here to read article) .  This is the kind of new-age women – good looking, successful and sharp - who don’t hesitate to talk freely about her body, mind (and ‘soul’?) -  I like and, perhaps, given a chance may have fallen for :)

But, I won’t dwell here on how brave it was of Deepika to discuss problem of emotional dip with a journalist. Nor will I embark upon an analysis  of how or why actors (especially the women) are prone to psychological disorders  - as a lady columnist ( who started her career as an editor of a film-magazine)  did - sadly mixing up schizophrenia (of another talented and beautiful Bollywood actor of the 80s) with clinical depression.

At the outset, I must make the disclosure that I am neither a psychologist nor psychiatrist and, hence, not technically qualified to write on what is a subject for specialists.  Mine’s an entirely layman’s point of view – based on observations of people around me at work, family and social circles and, above all, myself.

What I found remarkable in Deepika’s case – apart from her own openness to recognise the problem and seek professional help – was the supportive role of her mother. According to Deepika’s own account – on one of her visits to Mumbai, her mother sensed something was amiss and on returning to Bangalore consulted a psychologist friend who flew down to assess her condition and put her on therapy.

Many of these psychological problems start early.  In today’s world conditions like ADD / ADHD are common-place.  Stress and anxiety sometimes manifest into other disorders like OCD. Timely intervention can save many a careers (and, in case, of acute depression even lives). Parents and teachers are best placed to identify it. But, they seldom do – either out of ignorance (very often) or shyness to accept that something could be wrong with their child or ward. Teachers are often afraid about hostile reactions from parents.  What are tackled are more obvious issues like Drugs and addictions – but that too not always in time.

Very often these are borderline disorders that don’t require any serious clinical intervention at all and can be solved by counselling and talk-therapy (like CBT – Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) .  But, the problem is the lack of such resources in our schools and colleges and the lack of accessibility to competent professionals, also the taboo associated with seeing psychologist or psychiatrist in our society. 

There have been occasions – when I have advised young relatives and colleagues to seek professional help for their children. Needless to say not all have taken to it kindly – others listen politely to give it a royal ignore – but few have done it to good effect. The problem always is to find a good doctor or counsellor. But, with some effort help is usually not far to seek.

But, what bothers me a lot more are cases I have seen during my now fairly long work career – where very talented individuals have been trapped and often lost their way both in personal and professional life due to psychological issues.  As people tend to live away from home, in unitary families and often alone (without traditional support-systems), maintain stressful and punishing work schedules psychological issues are on the rise.  While the more progressive organisations have been alive to “Occupational Health” – it seldom includes psychological health.  Few organisations would allow Medical Reimbursement for consulting medical health professionals or psychiatry related medicines (in most cases – employees will be reluctant to claim it too for fear of their condition getting known).  Attitude of HR and senior management towards psychological conditions is also viewed with suspicion.

Yet, it is surprising how many people don’t attain their full potential or operate far below par – due to psychological issues (either of themselves or close family members ) pulling them back. Depression – often called the ‘common cold of the mind’ – is of course rampant – but there are also cases of Bi-polar Disorders, Anxiety and Panic Attacks or problems associated with mid-career or mid-life crisis that can become career-limiting. This is where employers have a responsibility to step in and provide professional help of a "shrink"as it were - to use an American parlance.

I myself – candidly – could have benefited from therapy.  My own first exposure to psychology was from a catholic priest of my school – who himself in the throes of ‘mid-life crisis’ took a sabbatical and went to the US to pursue a course in psychology. He returned to realise – many of his fellow face similar psychological issues and need help. This led to his setting up a Psychological Institute within the “order” – which was originally intended for the priests but now has a flourishing general practice.

Though for some a look at Deepika can be the best therapy to get out of depression – often  it requires more serious intervention than that . Ultimately, things can only improve with awareness. And, for that lovely Deepika has done more than her bit.

Take a bow Deepika. 

The article was first published in the The Daily_O Click here to read