Caution !! Mental Illness Alert !!

This article is prompted by the recent trend of raising social, moral and ethical issues of the society and to enlighten masses about dealing with things that are beyond human control, like giving birth to only daughters or disabled kids or intersex babies and having a psychological disorder. While it is a tremendous step ahead of the saas bahu sagas and one man two woman stories, these issues without proper caution and thorough professional research might do more harm than good to the society.

The problem with our dramas is that we are showing problems without solutions, and even the problems are magnified. Characters with mental diseases are the villains in these dramas which is exactly contrary to the message that needs to be sent out.

In Sanam, for example, Ayla was a loathsome character who supposedly had schizophrenia. Even though she was instituialised at the end and her ex husband did show some regret that about not understanding her, for the most part, she was the vamp. There was no mention of the fact that mental institutions are not the only place for such people. Rather, with proper medication, they can really be useful members of the society. She was shown to be scheming, plotting and cunningly destroying lives, while in reality schizophrenics are more of a threat to themselves than anyone else around them. The tricks she played on Harib and Aan were just the scenes of a villainess and nothing to do with schizophrenia. The drama stigmatised mental illness more than the increase in acceptance of such people as was the intention.

Another issue that is being raised is domestic abuse by husbands who are mentally unfit to be able to handle the responsibilities of a married life. That is a very valid point but again does not do full justice to the concept. In Rasm e Duniya, one of the two main leads Harib is also shown to be mentally disturbed as a result of childhood neglect and abuse he suffered at the hands of his step mother. The portrayal of the character is very realistic but he himself is a psychiatrist and neither he nor his colleagues or his family or his wife is able to see that he is mentally disturbed and got him any help, and he keeps on putting a good face in front of everyone except his wife. These are again the traits of an intentionally abusive husband. He even shoots himself and there is no mention of getting him treated, and who will bear the brunt of this? Definitely his wife as his illness will only surface behind closed doors. That scares you of such people rather than generating acceptance.

In Zakham, Faisal Quraishi is also playing such a character. He again manages to put you off of schizophrenics or bipolar disorder or whatever it is that he has. He is scheming and two faced and knows very well which tactic to apply at which time to oppress his wife while saving face in front of other people. The person closest to him, his sister does nothing to get him help. Rather, she helps him hide his problems. There is no sympathy that comes out for that character Khawar. So, the line between the villain and a psychologically ill person in merged, which is how we already treat them.

It would be unfair not to appreciate the effort being made to bring out newer themes and better concepts and the hard work that goes into executing them. However, issues like psychological disorder need more caution as far as our dramas are concerned. Just like you need to get treated for a physical ailment, you would need proper treatment for a mental illness. Someone with such an issue is neither a villain nor a stigma nor a problem for others. Hopefully, in the near future, our plays would be more consistent in showing the signs of a certain mental disease, as well as give out the message of inclusion and productivity for all such patients, and not relate subjects like domestic violence and plotting ex wives to them. On the other hand, a lot of such people truly are diagnosed after these behaviours which they take to extremes, and in such cases a proper closure with improvement in their lives and those around them would be a great way to bring this topic forward through Tv.

Mehwish Mansoor