Story Bank

Mental illnesses in India

In India, almost 2-3% of the population of youngsters and adults (between the ages of 15 – 59 years) are at risk of developing neuropsychiatric diseases. This is an important impetus to drive studies on brain disorders that focus on Indian patients.

A pleasant, soft-spoken man in his thirties, Sebastian got along well with the entire group and seemed like the perfect new addition to the office. After a few weeks, though, he started becoming moody and withdrawn. He refused to talk to certain people and would often complain to that there were ‘spies’ within the close-knit group. “These spies are people sent by my enemies from my home town. They have been sent to defame me and steal my work,” he claimed one day. It was as if he was living in another reality filled with ‘spies’ and ‘friends’. Sebastian’s actions are typical of a person suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

In another corner of the city, a young girl, Roma, gets up for the fourth time in an hour to wash her hands. “If I wash enough, my hands will be clean enough to eat with, eventually”, she mutters as she scrubs her already red and sore palms with liberal quantities of soap. Her mother explains that Roma has an intense fear of being contaminated by illness-causing germs, and washes her hands upto fifty times a day, often leaving them cracked and bleeding. Roma exhibits the classical symptoms of an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Elsewhere, Bala, a middle-aged man asks his daughter what she was making for his dinner. He nods and smiles at her answer and sits down to read the newspaper. Ten minutes later, he walks into the kitchen and asks her the same questions and nods benignly again at the answers she gives him patiently. “My father has no recollection that he asked me these things just ten minutes ago”, his daughter sighs, “he also gets confused about what time it is and often bathes several times a day because he has forgotten that he has already done so”. Bala is suffering from dementia.

Sebastian, Roma and Bala, all suffer from mental illnesses that are collectively known as neuropsychiatric disorders – illnesses that can severely affect the way a person behaves, interacts with others and functions in society. People with such ailments are often unable to understand why or how their behaviour is not acceptable to society, and are shunned, although what they really require is understanding and medical care. How does one deal with diseases that often leave the body healthy, but take away a part of the mind?

The ADBS program hopes to understand how these diseases develop and as a consequence provide new methods and insights into managing such patients and improving their quality of life.


About ADBS

The Accelerator program for Discovery in Brain disorders using Stem cells (ADBS) is a new scientific venture to understand mental illness by harnessing the power of modern human genetics and stem cell technology.

Contact Us

National Centre for Biological Sciences,
Tata Institute of Fundamental Research
Bellary Road, Bangalore 560065,
Karnataka, India
Phone: 91 80 23666001 / 02 / 18 / 19
Fax: 91 80 23636662
Email: adbs at ncbs dot res dot in