In a promo released on social media, Afsana, who is a popular singer can be seen trying to harm herself, using a knife after she felt betrayed by her friends for not giving her a VIP ticket. While there are several reports which suggest that the singer has been booted out of the house, the incident has also divided netizens online.
While some people on social media have been quick to defend and sympathize with Afsana’s state of health, what’s rather despicable is the manner in which the incident has turned into a joke, being inappropriately commented on, and the many netizens who are simply terming Afsana to be ‘mad’. The incident has also created more divides among BB15 fandoms online.
Why Afsana’s self-harm incident needs no inappropriate comments
The dialogue around mental health and self-care has definitely widened in India, but there’s also a huge gap which exists between the language, vocabulary and the actual care that we offer to people suffering from debilitating mental health. For example, it’s very common to call someone going through mental health issues or engaging in odd behaviour as ‘mad’, ‘pagal’, or cooking up conditions in their head, which is not just problematic, but also makes light of the actual issue which afflicts patients.
There have been several reports coming in about BB15 contestant (probably now out of the show) Afsana Khan’s prior mental health issues. While the health problems haven’t been fully discussed in the open, there is a lot of trivialization and stigmatization already taking place online, which is worrisome. In a country where mental health continues to be a taboo topic, and there are far more people who do not get help, or are aware about the condition they are going through, making a mockery out of mental health issues, rolling out jokes, or inappropriately using words like, ‘psycho’, ‘crazy’ considerably do more harm than good.
More so, sensitization is also needed, especially when we are already going through such terrible times, and there’s no way of knowing what a person may be actually going through. Away from the stigmatization and careless framing of words, what we really need are lessons in sensitivity and empathy. Former Bigg Boss contestant and television actress, Rashmi Desai too digress on the same and asked BB fans to not make callous remarks against Afsana, and be sensitive.
Mental health vocabulary: Why we need to be mindful
From the reports to the actual sentences we speak, the words we use to talk about mental health are very important. Not only can it help a person going through such an ordeal, but also help destigmatize and raise awareness about the ways mental health problems can impact the life we lead. With over 14% of Indians suffering from different forms of mental health disorders, we must use the right approach to talk about the matters, and raise the importance of good mental health, treatment and care.
It’s also important that we treat mental health conditions as an ailment which affects only one aspect of a person’s life, and doesn’t really define their personality. Just like we quip about a person suffering from a cold or a heart problem, we should be using the same terminology while we talk about someone’s worsening mental health. For example, instead of terming someone to be psychotic or bipolar because of the way he/she acts, it would be sensitive and wiser to address the condition- i.e., he or she is going through or has bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.
Using words like ‘psycho’, ‘crazy’, ‘junkie’, ‘mad’ can be derogatory, and may even push a person into battling negative thoughts, or even take extreme steps. In a similar manner, while we talk about someone who took their own life or suicides, it’s neccessary that we do not victimize the person by using words like ‘committed suicide’ but instead say, ‘died by suicide’. Using words in a mindful manner would also offer some support to the person’s family, and caregivers.
So the next time you come across instances like this, or feel livid about a person acting out inappropriately, do not rush out and call someone ‘mad’. Introspect, become aware of yourself, and dole out a sympathetic response to end the vicious cycles.