Courses that come under the umbrella of Humanities, especially Psychology, aren’t considered very ‘demanding’ subjects in India. All parents expect their kids to either become an engineer or a doctor; or if not, contribute to the family business. When I broke it to my parents that I wanted to take up arts (humanities/social sciences), they weren’t excatly supportive of it. Their point was that when I had enough grades to get myself through any science course, why in the world was I opting for a humanities combination. Along with this came the obvious and most loved line, ‘log kya kahenge?’
However, unlike my other friends, I didn’t have to go through any family drama to convince them- partly because they knew I’d do what I want no matter what they said. Everything seemed to be well and fine for a while. But once the news spread, I had friends and neighbours looking at me with their eyes and mouth wide open. In fact, my interviewer for college had a hard time accepting the fact that I was applying for a humanities course with those grades.
Many a times I was ridiculed by family, relatives and friends, for the choices I made- and I don’t know if that was because of the self-confidence, or the college environment that led me to believe that I hadn’t made the wrong choice after all, none of that really got to me. All my friends got into colleges that provided science combinations, and aspired to be doctors/engineers. Here I’ll give you one fun fact- if you do visit India and decide to take a walk anywhere, it is highly possible that every 5th person you run into is either a doctor or an engineer, or a student who is studying medicine or training to become an engineer. And I’m not exaggerating one bit.
Considering the stigma that is prevalent in India regarding mental health and disorders related to it, it leaves very little space for anyone pursuing Psychology to really get the right amount of exposure, training or practise. In fact I remember this one time I was talking to a Psychologist working in an infertility clinic. Surprisingly, while entering, I saw the ‘Counsellor’ sign on her door instead of the usual ‘Psychologist’ sign. On enquiring, I got to know that she had to remove the initial sign that read ‘Psychologist’ and change it to ‘Counsellor’ because no one would agree to talk to her then, thinking that they’re not ‘mad’ or ‘insane’ to be doing so.
While the opportunities for students studying Psychology are slowly opening up in India, they’re still very limited and confined to the fields immediately related to the natural sciences, like Clinical Psychology. What one needs to realise is, just like physical health, mental health too, is an important aspect of an individual’s wellbeing, and that it’s totally okay to talk to someone and seek help when needed. However, something completely opposite to this is observed- people condemn such talks, call them ‘crazy’ and ‘insane’ and think that the illness is the result of a demonic possession occurring due to their bad karmas. Those suffering are locked down in their houses and are advised to not tell anyone about it. Others lean towards traditional healing practices, which, now-a-days, go far from being anywhere near spiritual, or even ‘healing’. This goes along with the recent statistics showing a huge increase in mental health issues in both urban and rural communities in India. This gives a slight hint at the possibility that the distinction between Psychology and religion, which might date back to the Greeks, might just have been existing in theory, and not in practise.
This whole picture surely seems to be saddening. However, recent developments and research in this field are working at opening up a whole new set of choices to individuals who wish to pursue Psychology in India. Nonetheless, it is important that awareness regarding metal health is prioritised and people are encouraged to seek help when needed. Although it has taken India far longer than the West, such a movement is finally heading to a start in this subcontinent, and I’m so glad that I can be a part of it. People are finally coming to realise ki logon ka kaam hai bolna. Because at the end of the day, it’s really our choice to make, and no one else’s.