Wednesday, December 9, 2009

2009 Campaign PR (4/12):Mental Health & Gender Violence: A symposium

Chennai: “Violence against Women has profound implications on mental health which are often ignored, it is a pervasive social malady with severe public health implications,” said Dr.Shantha Kamath, a psychiatrist at a Symposium on Mental Health and Gender Violence held at the Schizophrenia Research Foundation (SCARF), here on Friday.

Organised jointly by SCARF and Prajnya, a Chennai-based centre for research and networking and public education, the symposium reinforced the correlation between gender violence and mental illness through multiple presentations by psychiatrists, researchers and other experts in mental health care and rehabilitation.

In a study conducted, 64% of mentally ill women were found to have been victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives. “Prolonged exposure to violence of any sort causes physiological damage to the brain, resulting in physical, emotional, psychological and behavioural problems in children” said Dr. V. Jayanthini.

There was also a strong linkage found between alcohol and other forms of substance abuse and violence against women. “Under the influence of alcohol, the actions of a husband are often excused by his wife. In fact, domestic violence in many parts of the country is not considered a crime but a part and parcel of marital life,” said Dr. Anita Rao, Director of Medical Services, TTK Hospital, who spoke on gender violence and substance abuse.

Dr. Shuba Kumar, Founder of SAMARTH, and a Social Science researcher, highlighted distinct patterns in domestic violence, from a study conducted across the length and breadth of the country. “The prevalence of mental abuse due to domestic violence is found more in cases when a woman’s job and income is higher than those of her husband’s,” she pointed out.

Chaitali Shetty of the Banyan also spoke of the distinctive rehabilitation patterns among rural and urban women, and expressed that rural women found more acceptance in their households after recovering from their illnesses. “The most common mental illnesses among victims of domestic violence are depression and suicidal tendencies,” she observed.

The symposium was chaired by Dr. Nalini Rao from the Madras School of Social Work, and was organised as part of the Prajnya 16 Days Campaign against Gender Violence.

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