Suppression of Mental Illness in India
Did you know that the suppression of mental illness is extremely common in India? The increasing cases of mental illness in young adults is worrying Indian families. How will they know if the bride or groom chosen for their child is suffering from a mental illness? Private Investigators (PIs) are being approached more and more by the Indian middle class to do background checks on prospective brides and grooms. One of the main factors that these families want to have verified is whether the prospective bride or groom suffers from any mental illness.
Several news reports have emerged on the topic of mental illness in India. In fact, some articles have called it an “epidemic.”
The suppression of mental illness by those entering a marriage is becoming a common theme. More people in the country are becoming aware of this occurrence simply due to conversations within their friend groups. Unfortunately, the reason why so many people suppress their mental illness is out of fear. In India, there is still a social stigma associated with mental illness.
However, there are currently various initiatives in India attempting to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness, spread awareness, and encourage those suffering to come forward. It is time that we change the way we think about mental health.
These initiatives have caught the attention of everyone from the health ministry to Bollywood. In fact, the health ministry had a hand in decriminalizing attempted suicide in India.
These initiatives and the measures taken by prominent Indian politicians and celebrities are much needed. While sound mental health is important to the well-being of every Indian affected by mental illness, it is also crucial for families looking to find suitors for their children.
Disorders of Mental illness-
People with mental illness typically live an isolated life far from their family. Before an arranged marriage is finalized, the future in-laws usually speak with the friends and families of the prospective bride or groom. Unfortunately, casual discussions with their neighbors and friends will not disclose any details about the person. The prospective bride or groom will usually agree to the marriage solely based on the family’s reputation. Thus, those with mental illness often successfully manage to dupe an innocent family into the marriage. There have been several reported instances where the parents of those afflicted with mental illness are also involved in the fraud.
In recent years, there have also been more instances of suppression of mental illness by Non-Resident Indians (NRI). These NRIs turn up for weddings and then disappear back to their places of work. In most cases, the mental illness is only detected only after two or three years, as the couple rarely stays together during the initial marriage period.
With India’s increasing population, there will be more instances of suppression of psychiatric illness. Unless something is done, innocent spouses will continue to be victimized by their husbands and wives that suffer from mental illness.
Private Investigators to the rescue for suppression of Mental Illness
A popular question is whether a PI can detect mental illness.
Unfortunately, it is quite challenging for a PI to gain insight into an individual’s mental state. A PI is not a doctor, which means that he cannot formally diagnose someone with a mental illness. Common psychiatric illnesses include: anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, attention deficit disorder, personality disorders, alcoholism, and schizophrenia. While these are serious illnesses, many people suffering from these conditions appear normal to their friends and colleagues.
An example of a person afflicted with mental illness, yet appeared normal to the outside world, is John Forbes Nash Jr. This Nobel Prize-winning mathematician suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and spent several years in mental institutions during his thirties. Eventually, his condition improved and he was able to return to academia. There are many such cases where people have taken medical help and returned to a normal life. However, the acknowledgement of the illness is the first step towards treatment.
On Mar 26, 2017, the Indian PM spoke extensively on the topic of depression and stated:
“I want to tell my countrymen, that depression is not incurable. There is a need to create a psychologically conducive environment to begin with. The first mantra is the expression of depression instead of its suppression. Share openly what you are going through with your colleagues, friends, parents, brothers, and teachers. Your friends, your family, your surroundings, and environment- all these can prevent you from going into depression and if you unfortunately have gone into it, they can also pull you out of it.”
Suppressing a mental illness and entering into a marriage shatters the hopes and dreams of another family. Once the mental illness is detected by the spouse, a number of things can happen. However, most common is a frivolous and lengthy litigation to stop the victim from moving out of the matrimonial relationship in order to protect the family reputation of the suppressor.
In India, there is a socially prescribed age by which a person should be married and settled. If a mental illness sufferer tricks a family into marriage, they typically ensure that both themselves and their partner are past this age. By doing so, it ensures that their partner will stay in the marriage for fear of judgement by society.
If the victims are NRIs, then they are further vexed, harassed and tormented. Because they are forced travel to India for each litigation date. The spouse afflicted with mental illness often uses all sorts of delay tactics in the litigation, making it difficult for the NRI to leave the marriage.
The case on the court-
The adversarial legal system in India demands the victim present cogent evidence to establish the case in the court. Once the case is established in the court, there are subsequent questions that arise for consideration, such as “Is the mental illness is curable?” This is where medical professionals may share conflicting views on the issue. All of these assessments form part of the lengthy and expensive litigation process.
Under some religions, the people have to approach the adjudicating bodies established by the religion to seek nullity of their marriage. For example, Roman Catholics have to approach the ecclesiastical court under the Canon law. This is a prerequisite to re-marry in the Catholic church. Victims, especially NRIs, have a hard time appearing and defending their cases in such religious forums after a lengthy legal battle at the civil court.
The fact remains that only a diligent assessment can determine the presence of psychiatric illness in an individual. The reluctance of the patient to consult a psychiatrist coupled with the social stigma surrounding mental illness makes it difficult to detect psychiatric illnesses.
How Can Private Investigators Help?
● PIs can make a dedicated effort to uncover mental illness. They can conduct a focused surveillance of the candidate, speak with their office colleagues, and consult their roommates about any suspicious behavior or mood swings
● They can help you by studying the different phases of your prospective partner’s life from their adolescence until the present day. This can be done by speaking with childhood friends, classmates, and colleagues.
● They can determine whether your prospective partner is seeking any kind of health treatment either directly or indirectly related to mental illness.
● PIs can inquire about the family’s mental health, as many mental health issues are hereditary. For example, schizophrenia is believed to have a strong genetic component, especially for close relatives.
● PIs can also find out if the individual with the mental illness acknowledges the issue, as well as the many factors associated with their mental illness. It is rare that the condition is acknowledged and treatment has been initiated.
● PIs can determine when the mental illness appears to have begun. Some mental health issues, like depression, can appear at any point in the person’s life. Any person can develop a mental illness. However, with the right support, they can live a normal life and improve their mental state. A mental illness that is untreated may seriously impact a person’s life, while a treated illness is not that different from a physical health issue.
● PIs can form objective opinions and reports that are independent and auditable. They can substantiate their reports with cogent evidence for every statement. Expert opinions can also be taken from psychiatrists based on the PIs’ reports.
There are important privacy concerns that must be taken into consideration when discussing mental illness. In March 2015, the Germanwings Flight 9525 crashed and everyone on board the plane was killed. The investigations revealed that the pilot had a history of mental health problems which had been concealed. The pilot had also ignored the advice of doctors asking him not to fly. This disaster opened a debate over privacy. The pertinent question that arises here is:
Because mental health problems are increasingly being concealed, how are we going to protect the interests of innocent potential brides and grooms?
For the foreseeable future, PIs are the most constructive way forward. This is because, they have the resources required to combat this situation. Families and parents want the best for their children. Especially, PIs can ensure that these children are only matched with sane, healthy suitors. Hiring a PI to perform a mental health background check on potential suitors can help ease the minds of Indian families and bring peace to all in the country.