Thursday, September 11, 2008


When my son was a little boy, he was fond of books about insects and animals. These were mostly illustrated and informative. The little fellow called them "Knowledge Books". This almost-encyclopedia on Mental Health falls into this category and is both extensively and imaginatively illustrated as well as pretty exhaustively informative.

As wife to a film maker who focused on Science, I was prone to having numerous books on various subjects being inflicted on me. Drs. Arun and Mary Rukadikar's learned tome thus reminds me of one particular manual on health:
Where There Is No Doctor.

This book was designed to be a
"health care manual for health workers, clinicians, and others involved in primary health care delivery and health promotion programs around the world."
It had a lot of hand drawn pictures too. However, this effort of David Werner, Carol Thuman, Jane Maxwell, while equally bulky, will find it hard to compete with the thoroughness of the treatment given the Mental Health manual by its assiduous authors.

As Jacob K John's thorough review puts it,
"this book is aimed at patients and relatives, but should find itself on the shelf of any mental health professional, particularly the young ones who are fresh out of training and bristling with a theoretical construct of practice."

I also agree with him that
"it will indeed be a tribute to the authors if they (the authors) allow the book to be translated into different languages to benefit many more people."

Let us look at it this way. A psychiatrist is sadly a rare luxury for most around the world. In remote rural settings it is the GP who has to deal with a range of health issues in none of which he may be a specialist. One can easily see how this manual would provide yeoman assistance when a village GP in the developing world, for example, is confronted with psychiatric issues which may not warrant the expense to the patient or patient's family of a trip to the big city.

Sadly, although the urban milieu should ideally be composed of an informed population, media has never done psychiatry adequate justice and even today a depressed person's friends and family expect the patient to just "snap out of it". A visit to a psychiatrist is all too often equated with stop over at a spa. The easy availability of Drs. Arun and Mary Rukadikar's user's guide to mental problems would help literate people in distress or their families to process and pinpoint the problem and seek the right treatment.

It would also guide those under active treatment or their families and thus demystify the psychiatric process. Knowledge sets you free and living in this advanced age it is a shame that so many still do not have the luxury of making informed decisions from sheer lack of such a manual where it concerns mental disorders.

Its sole drawback might be its size and comprehensiveness in this user friendly day and age where people
a. do not read as much as they should for lack of time
b. prefer things to be short (the book is heavy to hold or carry around)
c. sweet (the tone is rather severe at times and we have all become rather used to TLC)

That said, all it now needs to fill the tragic vacuum in terms of mental health information for the layman is to find its way to a book shelf in every book store around the world.

Suffering as I am from depression, I can only thank Drs. Arun and Mary Rukadikar for this boon -I'm no longer at sea and can see my way to the Light.

An illustrated and easy guide to mental disorders for the mentally ill and their families

Arun Rukadikar, Mary Ponnaiya Rukadikar
Publisher: Miraj Psychiatric Centre, Dr. Gaikwuad Road, Miraj - 416410, Maharashtra, India
Pages: 472 pp; Price: Rs. 420