The Crusader of Mental Health

Public Education

CRC regards educating the public about mental health as the fourth dimension of his career. He took up this cause with a missionary zeal when he started his career in NIMHANS. He saw the widespread ignorance of mental disorders among the lay people as well as medical professionals and the neglect of mental patients. Even today many people think there are only two kinds of mental disorders : mental retardation and madness. They are not aware of minor mental disorders – depression, anxiety, psychosomatic symptoms, etc. and other major disorders like bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and schizophrenia.

His objectives in educating the public are to enable people to identify major mental disorders in the initial stages, teach them how to identify minor mental disorders and how to seek treatment, and tell them where to go for treatment. Acceptance for modern treatment methods by people needs to be won; in the pathways to care study, where CRC was involved, it was found that psychiatry was the tenth or later option for treatment. People tended to go first to faith healers, temples, churches and dargahs reputed for healing, people claiming to offer cures through traditional methods of treatment, astrologers, and such like. Sometimes the gap between onset of disorder and time when patient was taken to psychiatrist was 10 years.

He seeks to educate people about causes of disorders and to remove common misconceptions, such as that mental disorder is caused by evil spirits. There are humane and scientific ways to handle mental patients; they should not ill-treated, punished, or neglected. The stigma associated with mental illness should be dispelled. He educates people on prevention of minor disorders by making lifestyle changes, by reducing anxiety, by learning to manage adverse life events like death, and by avoiding consanguineous marriages, especially when there is a history of mental disorder in the family. He teaches how mental health and efficiency of students can be improved (e.g., by teaching them how to prepare for exams).

He advocates that patients should be rehabilitated : they should be kept engaged in work instead of allowing them to remain idle; they should be helped to lead a normal life when they are better.

He uses multiple channels for public education : talks and lectures; writing articles for newspapers and magazines; conducting phone-in TV programs and giving talks on radio. Possibly the most effective way has been writing books. His books are easy to read and priced low. Over one thousand of his articles have been published in leading newspapers and periodicals in Karnataka.

It is hard to not know Dr. CRC if you live in Karnataka and read Kannada periodicals or watch Kannada TV channels. His message will surely reach you through one of his articles, books, or TV and radio programs in which he speaks on mental health issues.

CRC on TV

CRC started the mental health section of the DD Chandana live phone in program – “Hello Geleyare” (hello friends) some ten years ago. The name was later changed to Apta Salah (Counseling). The program is a live weekly broadcast with people phoning in to ask questions. Once a month, on a Friday, the topic is mental health. The program officer wanted to block out the name of the person phoning in to maintain privacy, but CRC did not allow it. Over the years, this has helped in removing the stigma associated with mental illness. People called in, introduced themselves through their name and city, and stated their problems. CRC came on this program for its first 6 months; later he asked the producers to invite other doctors too, lest it be thought that he was monopolizing the program.
Many of his stories from books like Chitta Vaichitriya, Mana Mandara, Kane Avadana Kathe have been adapted for TV and shown on Doordarshan. “Mavu Bevu”, a serial of 13 episodes, based on case studies of people with mental problems written by him, was produced and broadcast on Doordarshan channel. “Para Naari Sanga Bedelu Nanna Raya”, a play based on a story from the book Manasu, has been performed on stage many times and broadcast on radio.
He has given talks and hosted live phone-in programs on Bangalore Doordarshan, Udaya TV, ETV, Siti TV, Kaveri TV, Suvarna TV, Kasturi TV, Janasri TV, Samaya TV and TV-9 channels. He feels that TV is the best medium for educating people; unfortunately its potential is being wasted, as most of the channels are focused on useless entertainment.

CRC on Radio

“Radio Doctor” on Akashvani radio station was started around 40 years ago. It is broadcast every morning at 8:30 AM. A doctor speaks on a specific illness like pneumonia for five minutes. CRC spoke around once a month for many years. He has given talks, participated in discussions and hosted live phone-in programs on All India Radio stations in Bangalore, Hassan, Madikeri, Bhadravathi, Gulbarga, Chitradurga and Mangalore.
Thirteen short radio-plays on adolescent problems were broadcast on all AIR stations in Karnataka in 1997.
He has become more popular through his Public education activities than through his medical practice. He has seen that the stigma attached to mental illness has reduced over past 40 years. He can take pride in his contribution to increased awareness of mental health issues and people’s increasing willingness to acknowledge mental illness.