Mental Health Crisis in India

More than 50 million people in India suffer from a mental illness.  In 2011, India recorded the highest rate of major depression in the world at 36 per cent.  According to doctors, roughly 10 per cent of India’s population suffers from depression – MGMH

 

Women with mental illness are treated as less than human.  They are dumped, abandoned and abused.  If there are any signs of mental illness, a woman is put in a mental hospital with no chance of getting out.  Men can go back home while women are there for life.  In the following video, we meet a woman whose husband had her institutionalized although she had no history of mental illness.  Here’s a story of a mentally ill woman whose husband built a case against her so that he could get custody of their children after divorcing her.

It is not surprising that women suffer from depression at higher rates than men.  They have to deal with gender inequality, violence, lack of paid employment, lack of education, excessive spousal alcohol use and poverty.  Mothers are blamed for the birth of a female child and many face pressure to have male children.  Women are diagnosed with schizophrenia later in life, oftentimes, following the birth of their children.  The children are often removed from the ill mother’s care and this results in further distress for her. Indian women have higher rates of suicide than women in most developed countries and a higher rate of suicide compared to men in India.  Depression is one of the most common reasons for suicide among Indian women.

Mental health in India carries with it a stigma, especially if the person suffering from mental illness is a woman.  According to MGMH (Movement for Global Mental Health), in rural India, it is common to see people taking their children to temples and faith-healers instead of hospitals and doctors, especially in cases of mental health.  Mental health was something that was talked about in hushed tones.  Thankfully, it is no longer being swept under the rug.  People are coming forward.  Deepika Padukone stunned her fans last year when she admitted that she suffered from anxiety and depression.

At the time the news broke, she was one of the most sought after actresses in Bollywood. It took tremendous courage for her to disclose her illness, especially since people diagnosed with mental illness face discrimination.  Deepika has since launched the Live Love Laugh Foundation to raise awareness about mental health issues and as a result many celebrities were inspired to come out in the open and address the need to talk about mental health.  Varun Dhawan admitted that he was depressed during the making of Badlapur and Honey Singh revealed that he has been undergoing therapy for bipolar disorder.

Sadly, those living with mental illness are victims of a cruel fate.  They are often locked away and stripped of their basic human rights in state-run institutions that are under-staffed. In an article, titled Mentally Ill Suffer a Horrible Fate in India posted on the site for Deutsche Welle (DW), most state run mental hospitals are in deplorable conditions. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) reported that out of the 43 government mental hospitals in India, less than half a dozen are in a “livable” condition”.

There are doctors in charge of these hospitals who have no business being there.  “These doctors don’t understand the intricacies of a psychiatric illnesses and the comprehensive care the patients require,” said a psychiatrist working in a state-run mental hospital in Uttar Pradesh.

And in the midst of the crisis of hospitals not providing the conditions and care the patients need, are quack healers who are profiting from this.  According to a study by Dr. Shiv Gautam, former superintendent of Jaipur Mental Hospital, 68 per cent of the mentally ill are taken to faith healers before a psychiatrist.  “The reason, besides superstition, is that most general medicine doctors fail to diagnose psychiatric illness,” Gautam said. “A mentally ill patient displays symptoms which superstitious people believe are paranormal,” he added. “Such patients are tortured, chained and used for extracting money from their families.”  Hema, who was suffering from Schizophrenia was believed to have an evil spirit.  Her family took her to Datar Sharif Dargah where she spent a year locked up.  It wasn’t until her condition deteriorated that she was brought to Dr. Gautam.  In 15 days, she began to improve and a month later she was normal.

In other cases, the mentally ill are subjected to one of these horrific ordeals:  whipping, caning, inhaling burnt chili smoke, having their eyes smeared with chili paste or having their eyes branded with red, hot coins.  There are laws banning this practice, however, many dargahs and temples keep the patients chained.  Some of them spend the rest of their lives like this.  In 2001, 26 patients perished in a fire at a dargah in a coastal village because they couldn’t escape the blaze since they were chained.  What a horrific and senseless tragedy.

Families of mentally ill people opt for dumping them.  This means that they are dumped into an asylum where the conditions are not fit for a human.  When an illegal asylum was raided, they found thirty-five men and six boys living in inhuman conditions.  The stench from their unwashed bodies and the excrement drove neighbors to alert the health department.  Naked and chained inmates were discovered, dumped there by their families after they paid the asylum owner.  Some of these poor souls were found crawling in their excrement, some even consuming it.  On their bodies were marks of torture.  Some had surgical scars on their backs, leading to allegations that the asylum had links to kidney theft.  78 patients had entered the asylum but only 41 were found during the raid.

Other patients are dumped in jungles or forests ranges.  Their families pay lorry drivers to drop them.  Women and children are among these victims and in some cases, the females are raped by the drivers before being dumped.  Social activist Murugan S. who has rescued countless mentally ill people from the streets, cautions us not to judge the families by calling them cruel.  Instead we are to examine what forced them to take such extreme measures.  He believes that system needs to change.

Part of the solution is raising awareness.  The suffering of the mentally ill has been brought to our attention. It is out in the open.  The next thing that needs to be done is to show the superstitious and fearful society that mental illness is nothing to run away from or to be ashamed of.  The person suffering from mental illness needs love, support and most importantly, proper care so that he or she can live a normal life.

The government needs to put something place to ensure that patients are placed in reputable, sanitary facilities that will provide the care that they need and to ban the operation of illegal asylums and the practice of dumping.  Quack healers should be banned from profiting from other people’s suffering.  Husbands should not be allowed to institutionalize their wives if there is no record that they have mental illness.

No one wants to be mentally ill but it is a reality for many people and what they need is to know that they have a platform where they can talk about what is happening with them. Here in Canada, we have Bell Let’s Talk, a wide-reaching, multi-year program designed to break the silence around mental illness and support mental health all across the country. It has done so much to fight the stigma of mental illness and encourage people to get involved in educating themselves and others.

It is my sincere hope and prayer that something will be put in place in India so that attitudes toward mental illness would change and those suffering from it will have a platform where they would not be judged, dumped, abandoned or discriminated but supported and be treated with dignity and open minds.  In the meantime, let’s keep talking and raising awareness.

Talking is the best way to start breaking down the barriers associated with mental illness – Bell, Let’s Talk

 

Sources:  Vice News; Movement of Global Mental Health; Wikipedia; Deutsche Welle

Former First Lady Dies

Former First Lady Nancy Reagan died today of congestive heart failure at the age of 94.  She was gracious, fiercely protective of her husband President Ronald Reagan.  She was always by his side.  They were inseparable.  And whenever they were apart, they couldn’t wait to be together again.  It seems as if their love just grew stronger over the years.  It was such a thrill to see them always holding hands.  An image that will always stay with me of her was when she leaned her head against her husband’s casket.  It was a heartbreaking moment.  Theirs was a beautiful love story.  “My life really began when I married my husband,” she once said.  In various photos, she is seen gazing up at her husband in adoration.

Mrs. Reagan gave up her own career as a Broadway and film actress to raise a family and to support her husband’s political aspirations.  She was sharply criticised for this by feminists but she countered their attacks with this statement, “Feminism is the ability to choose what you want to do… I’ve really enjoyed the best of two worlds.”

Notes to Women bid farewell to this remarkable woman of strength, unwavering devotion.  Nancy Reagan will be remembered for her anti-drug campaign “Just Say No” , her work in raising awareness of breast cancer after her own diagnosis and of course, her devotion to her husband.  She was a feminist in her own right.  She showed that choosing family above career was within a woman’s right and a choice that should be respected not condemned.

Source:  Bustle

Bessie Coleman

Bessie Coleman was one of 13 children to Susan and George Coleman, sharecroppers.  The family lived in a one-room cabin in Atlanta, Texas.  When she was two years old, Bessie’s father left the family in search of better opportunities in Oklahoma.  Bessie’s mother did her best to support the family until the children were old enough to contribute.  When Bessie’s older brothers went to work, she took care of her two younger sisters.  She became the family leader, reading to her sisters and mother at night.  Bessie promised her mother that she was going to “amount to something.”

Bessie began attending school when she was six and had to walk four miles every day to her segregated one-room school.  There she loved to read and had the distinction as an outstanding Math student.  The school closed whenever the students were needed in the fields to help their families harvest cotton.

Bessie attended Langston University, known then as Oklahoma Colored Agricultural and Normal University.  She was able to complete one term before she ran out of money.  She returned home.  At 23 she moved to Chicago where she lived with her brothers.  It was when she was working at the White Sox Barber Shop as a manicurist that her interest in aviation was kindled.  She heard stories about flying during the war from pilots returning home from World War I.  American flight schools did not admit black women and one of the pilots was willing to teach her how to fly.

Determined to earn her pilot license and encouraged by Robert S. Abbott, founder and publisher of the Chicago Defender, Bessie went to France after taking a French language course at Berlitz School in Chicago.  In France, she learned how to fly in a Nieuport Type 82 biplane and on June 15, 1921 she became the first African American and Native American to earn both an aviation pilot’s license and an international license from the Federation Aeronautique Internationale.  For the next two months, Bessie took lessons from a French ace pilot near Paris to polish her skills.  When she returned to the United States she became a media sensation.

She specialized in stunt flying and parachuting.  She earned a living barnstorming and performing aerial tricks.  In 1922 she made her first appearance in an American airshow.  It was an event honoring veterans of an all-black 369th Infantry Regiment of World War I.  She was billed as “the world’s greatest woman flier.”

It was Bessie’s dream to establish a school for young black aviators but she didn’t live to fulfill it.  On April 30, 1926, Bessie was killed in an accident while preparing for an airshow.  She was only 34 years old.

Bessie Coleman remains a pioneer of women in the field of aviation.  “Because of Bessie Coleman,” wrote Lieutenant William J. Powell in Black Wings 1934, dedicated to Coleman, “we have overcome that which was worse than racial barriers.  We have overcome the barriers within ourselves and dared to dream.”  Lieutenant Powell served in a segregated unit during World War I and pushed for black aviation in his book, journals and through the Bessie Coleman Aero Club which he founded in 1929.

Notes to Women is pleased to honor this remarkable woman who broke down gender and race barriers by daring to dream big.  She kept her promise to her mother.  She did “amount to something”.

The air is the only place free from prejudice.

I refused to take no for an answer.

You’ve never lived till you’ve flown!

I decided blacks should not have to experience the difficulties I had faced, so I decided to open a flying school and teach other black women to fly.

 

Bessie Coleman painting

Sources:  Biography; Notable Biographies; Wikipedia; Brainy Quote

Starvation in Madaya

Many people in the world today are not starving because there is an inherent inability to produce food, they are starving because they are caught in the middle of political fights and blockades that have been used as weapons – Ralph Merkle

I was appalled when I heard about the mother who was giving her 7 month old baby water and salt because there is no food in Madaya, Syria.  Tears came to my eyes when I saw the sunken face of a baby, his large eyes staring at the camera.  This precious, innocent child and many others are starving in Madaya.  Some have died.  This atrocity begs the question:  How could a leader of a country do this to his people?

It’s hard to watch this video but it is something everyone needs to be aware of.

People were forced to live on tree leaves and plants but now that winter has set in there are no more plants and leaves.  Majed Ali, a 28 year old opposition activist, was 114 kilos before the siege and is now 80.  Abu Hassan Mousa, head of Madaya opposition council sees no point in negotiating when children are going without milk.   “What are we going to negotiate over?” he demands.  “Our dead?”  The Syrian people went for months without aid.  In fact, the October was the last time aid was delivered to Madaya.

Seeing the crisis in Syria motivated me to get in touch with Julie Marshall, Canadian Spokesperson of the United Nations World Food Programme.  I wanted to know what people in Canada can do to help and this is what she had to say:

The good news is the first UN convoy will move to Madaya carrying food for 40,000 people for one month will set off as early as Sunday. On Monday, other convoys carrying food should move into the besieged towns of Foah and Kefraya in rural Idlib with WFP food for 20,000 people.  Non-food items, including medicine, specialist nutrition products, kitchen sets, blankets, winter clothing and other supplies will hopefully follow in the next few days.

The last humanitarian supplies reached Madaya on October 17 on an interagency convey – this was enough food to feed more than 19,000 people for one month. The convoy was a result of a locally negotiated agreement reached between the opposition and government to allow access to four besieged communities in Idlib and rural Damascus (Foah, Kefraya, Zabadani and Madaya). Since then, no food assistance or humanitarian supplies have reached these areas.
WFP provides food assistance to over 4 million people displaced inside Syria in both government and opposition-controlled areas every month.  And around 1.3 million refugees in neighbouring countries.

Canada has been one of WFP’s largest donors to our response in the region and we hope the extension of the matching funds, until the end of February will encourage Canadians to donate to organizations like WFP working in Syria.

Canadians can support WFP by donating here: https://give.wfp.org/en/629/?step=country
Also, we launched an app a few months ago called ShareTheMeal which makes it extremely easy to support our school meals for Syrian refugee school children living in Jordan.

It is extremely difficult to see babies starving.  And it upsets me when I see food go to waste when there are people starving everyday.  Let us do what we can to help the people in Syria.  Hunger is a terrible thing and something that we need to fight against.  The starvation in Syria is likened to warfare.  It’s like when Hitler starved the Russian people during the battle of Stalingrad.  Hunger is being used as a weapon to oppress the people and this cannot and should not be allowed to happen.  Let us help WFP and other humanitarian agencies to save the lives of the men, women and children in Syria.

Source:  CBC News; World Food Programme

Finding Joy in Jesus

The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you – Jeremiah 31:3

Imagine you are a South Asian woman.  Every day is a struggle and a challenge to survive.  All you know is oppression from the day you were born until the day you die.   As a girl child, your birth is not celebrated.  You feel unwanted and are constantly reminded that you should have been born a boy.  You are neglected, mistreated, abused or abandoned.  As a young girl, you are abducted and forced into a life of prostitution which increases your risk of dying from AIDS.

If you are a widow, you are blamed for your husband’s death.  His family and your community shun you and you are forced to fend for yourself.  You are forced into an inhumane existence.   You are completely alone, with no one to support or care for you.  Life is too hard.   There is no help.  There is no hope.  Only despair, misery and pain.  What’s the use?  Tens of thousands of widows end their lives just to end the pain.

If your dowry is not enough, your husband can douse you with kerosene and set you on fire.  I have read horror stories of women being set on fire by their husbands or in-laws because of their dowries. A woman’s life is not worth anything.  It’s hard to believe that there are countries where it’s not safe to be a woman.  It can even be fatal.  Women who survive infanticide because of gender are forced to live in a society which denies them rights to equality, respect, education, etc.

Being a woman in South Asia is unimaginable and unbearable for many and it is not surprising that the suicide rate is up to 21 times higher than the world’s average.  Life for these women is a never-ending cycle of misery, hopelessness, degradation and rejection.  These women need to know that there is hope.  They need to know that there is a God who values them.  To Him they are precious.  They were fearfully and wonderfully made in His image.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you – Jeremiah 1:5

Imagine the joy these women will have when they hear about Jesus for the first time through Gospel for Asia’s ministries.  Help them find hope and joy in a Savior who loved them so much that He gave His life for them so that one day they could spend eternity with Him.  They need to know that they are worth a price far above rubies.  They need to know that although there might have been silence in their homes on the days they were born, there was a joyful noise in heaven.

Women missionaries have been bringing the message of love and hope to the women of Asia.  It is crucial that women minister to women because of the Asian culture.  Women are more comfortable around other women.  Gospel for Asia has trained, dedicated women missionaries who are willing to risk their lives to share the love of Jesus Christ with millions of women who still need to hear the Good News. These heroic women missionaries are willing to risk persecution, beatings and imprisonment because they are passionate about giving hope to women who have lived in despair for so long.  They want to offer hurting women healing and encouragement.  They want to bring the Savior’s light and love into their dark and uncaring world.  Many Asian woman have had their lives transformed but there are still so many who are still waiting.

Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning – Psalm 30:5

Help Gospel for Asia send more missionaries to those who are perishing without knowing about Jesus and His love.  Find out how at this link.   Help bring joy to a woman in Asia.

 

Source:  Gospel for Asia

Investing in A Child

One sponsor can have an enormous impact in the life of a child in Asia through GFA Bridge of Hope! Their prayers, love and encouragement can make a difference in the lives of children who are constantly derided and told they are worthless by their culture – Gospel for Asia

Nothing is more wonderful than giving a child hope for a bright future.  You can do so by sponsoring a boy or a girl.  In Asia, parents struggle to provide for their families.  Their children grow up illiterate, uneducated and taught that they are worthless.  More than 20 million of boys and girls are forced into child labor and prostitution so that they can support their families.

Thankfully, Gospel for Asia is turning these terrible situations around through their wonderful program, Bridge of Hope.  Children are educated and nurtured.  Families experience Jesus’ love.  So far, the program has helped over 74,000 children and thousand of families have come to accept Christ as their Savior.

Watch this video of a Mom as she explains why she sponsors three children.

Bridge of Hope sponsorship is not just about giving money to support a child in Asia—it’s much, much more. If you decide to pour into a child’s life, you are making a direct impact on the lost in Asia. Your child will have food, clothes, education, and most importantly, your child will learn about Jesus’ love and share it with his or her family and the surrounding community – Gospel for Asia

Read how sponsorship has made a difference in the lives of Daya and Nibun.  As you read their stories, keep in mind that it takes only $35.00 a month to give a child everything he or she needs–such as school supplies, a daily meal, medical check-ups and the opportunity to attend a Bridge of Hope center.  100% or your sponsorship is sent to the field to support your child.

A child could benefit so much from attending a Bridge of Hope center.  The boy or girl you sponsor will learn Bible verses, stories and songs that bring the Gospel to life, learn to read and write, receive a healthy, balanced meal, medical care and learn the habits of good hygiene.

Do you know that when you take care of a child’s physical needs you are also breaking the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, superstition and the bondage of the caste system?  And your love and care of this child will extend to his or her family because the child will take the message of God’s love home. Sponsoring a child will bring hope to the family and even the community.  The Gospel will penetrate hearts that resisted it at first.  You will make it possible for parents to be in the training sessions which are an integral part of the Bridge of Hope program.  You will provide the child and his or her family “a future here on earth and one for eternity”.

I encourage you to prayerfully consider sponsoring a child.  Help to bring the message of salvation to a child who has not heard of Jesus.  You can change a life forever.  Invest in a child today.

As cold water to a weary soul, So is good news from a far country – Proverbs 25:25

Source:  Gospel for Asia

Kalavati’s Story

There is no greater violence than to deny the dreams of our children – Kailash Satyarthi, founder of GoodWeave

She Just Wanted to be Like Other Children

Imagine what it would be like if your son or daughter was forced into child labor.  On the Voices of America (VOA) site I saw a photo of five year old Pakisthani girl named Naginah Sadiq.  She worked in a brick factory.  In the photo she was resting on a bed next to her 8 month old sister Shahzadi on World Day Against Child Labor on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan on June 12, 2012.  She was wearing dirty clothes and was barefeet.  Her hands and feet were dirty.  She looked so tiny.  How could she work in a brick factory?  This photo was taken three years ago.  Is she still working there?  Will her baby sister be forced to work once she turns five?  Millions of children are forced into child labor in order to support their families.

I’m sure that Naginah would rather be like other children who get to play, have no responsibilities and go to school–things that our own children take for granted.  Growing up, I didn’t have to worry about anything.  There was always food on the table, clothes for me to wear and I went to school.  I didn’t do any housework.  I played with my friends or spent most of my time reading and writing.  Life was good for me.  I had a decent childhood.  This is the kind of childhood that children like Kalavati could only dream of.

Can you imagine how eleven year old Kalavati felt when she saw other children playing without a care in the world while she worked alongside her mother?  She had been working since she was eight years old.  At eight I was probably still playing with dolls.  Kalavati had to work in order to support her family.  She had no choice.  Her father lost his job because someone had performed witchcraft on him, causing him to be mentally disturbed.  He stopped showing up for work and then he disappeared.  Days, weeks, months and a year passed but there was still no sign of him.

Then one day, while walking through the village, Kalavati’s mother, Bhama saw a crazed looking man, sitting under a tree.  He was naked and alone.  He had a long beard and at first she didn’t recognize him.  Then she realized that it was Deval, her husband.  She took him home where he was welcomed by the family who were relieved and overjoyed to see him.  The joy didn’t last, though.  Deval was not in his right mind.  They took him to the hospital to be treated but that didn’t work.  He was violent and no one could control him.  His story reminded me of the one about the man who was living among the tombs in the country of the Gadarenes because he had many demons.  He was violent and no one went near him.   Deval began to throw stones at the villagers.  He was not the same because of the curse someone put on him.

She Just Wanted to be Like Other Children

Tired of dealing with Deval’s violent behavior, the villagers drove the family out of their home.  Life went from bad to worst for Kalavati.  Now she had no home or support from the neighbors.  The family went to the big city where Bhama hoped to find work.  For days they lived and begged on the streets until Bhama finally found work as a maid in a farmhouse.  Unfortunately, this job was not enough.  It didn’t provide the family with the relief they needed.  Bhama worked day and night but it was not enough to provide two meals a day.   Kalavati helped her mother with the laundry and cleaning of the utensils in the house but all the while she wished she could be like the owner’s children.  She saw them studying and wished she could do the same.  At that moment education seemed far out of her reach.  It was merely a dream that would never come true.

What touched me as I read this story was when Bhama became so discouraged because her husband was not getting well in spite of the treatment he was getting with the money she had borrowed from her employer that she was convinced that the only way to save her family from the ever-growing burdens was to poison them and herself.  It was at that moment when God intervened.

It was around this time that the Bridge of Hope staff members visited the family.  They listened as Bhama told them that she didn’t believe in God and revealed her plans to commit suicide.  They told her about Jesus and prayed with the family.

Bhama had a change of heart about God after her encounter with the believers and when she saw some improvement in Deval.  She knew that this miracle could only have been the result of the believers’ prayers.  This prompted her to visit the Bridge of Hope center the next day and ask if they would enroll Kalavati.  The dream that had seemed impossible for Kalavati became a reality!  She attended the center the following week.  The staff members continued to ask God to heal Deval and for Bhama to find stable work so that she could provide for her family.  God answered their prayers.  Bhama found a stable gardening job at the local hospital.  Kalavati helps her sometimes but not because she has to.

Kalavati can be like other children.  She plays and draw pictures.  And she is getting an education.  She has something far better than what the children of her mother’s ex-employer had–she has Jesus in her life.  Thanks to the Gospel for Asia workers, Kalavati and her family learned about Jesus.  She is thriving at the Bridge of Hope center.  She has reason now to dance and play with her classmates.  The love of Jesus has transformed her world.  There is hope now when there was so much despair.  Her father is improving a little at a time.  He is no longer aggressive and violent toward others.  He eats meals with his wife and daughter and attends church with them.  Together they worship the One who saved their lives.

Just think, there was a time when Bhama thought there was no hope.  She saw no way out of her despair.  She saw no end to the family’s struggles.  But God does not give us more than we can handle.  He sees what we are going through and He intervenes.  Thanks to the Gospel for Asia Bridge of Hope ministry, Bhama came to know the God she had not believed in.  He had revealed Himself through the changes He had brought into her life.  God revealed Himself in a very profound way and helped Bhama to do what she could not do in her own strength.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble – Psalm 46:1

Pray that God will intervene in the lives of other children who are trapped in child labor or families who are forced to beg in order to survive.  You can make a difference.  You can sponsor Gospel for Asia’s Bridge of Hope ministry so that they are able to reach out to families like Kalavati’s and share with them the hope that they can find only in Jesus.  Or you can sponsor a child like Kalavati and change a family.

With God’s help, you can help Asian boys and girls to be like other children who are free to play and draw and do the things that children do.  You can help to protect them from those who would rob them of their childhood and innocence, deny them a bright future and crush their hopes and dreams.

Deliver the poor and needy;  Free them from the hand of the wicked – Psalm 82:4

 

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; AZ Quotes; VOA