CHENNAI: Writing about mental health issues can be a challenge. It should be no surprise then that the first place in the Media for Mental Health awards has gone to a writer who has battled schizophrenia herself.
Reshma Valliappan, a survivor of psychiatry, as she calls herself, a co-founder of Mind Ares and a member of various national and international groups for persons with mental health issues came away with the first place in the ‘Media for Mental Health’ awards given by the Schizophrenia Research Foundation and the Press Institute of India.
The award was given in recognition of one of the numerous pieces that Reshma has written about her battle with schizophrenia and what she had to face from society and the State.
“People with mental disorders do not have many of the rights and privileges that the Constitution promises. They cannot even vote,” she said.
This lack of understanding, coupled with the prevailing misconception has made writing about mental health issues that much more difficult. Ask R Thara Srinivasan, Director of Schizophrenia Research Foundation (SCARF), and she says the very same thing. “These misconceptions have percolated to all levels of the social strata and have become widely accepted beliefs. Sometimes, stories in both print and visual media only serve to reinforce these myths,” she said.
But bearing a distinct contrast to those run of the mill articles come those who got their writers these awards recently.
Besides Valliappan, Mini P Thomas (The Week, Bangalore) and Arun M and Sam Paul A (The New Indian Express, Kozhikode), received the award in the English language category, while Geetha Gengiah (Puthiya Thalaimurai) and Reji Joseph (Rastra Deepika) won the award in the regional language category
“There are very few well-researched stories on mental health related issues. Therefore, it’s very important to recognise them,” said Srinivasan.
The awards were given by cinematographer and filmmaker Rajiv Menon. Padma Bhushan awardee and founder of SCARF Sarada Menon was present.