We Need To Re-Evaluate The Portrayal Of Mental Health In South Asian Media

We Need To Re-Evaluate The Portrayal Of Mental Health In South Asian Media

The faster we stop accepting the problematic narrative spun around mental health, the faster we can get rid of the stigma and taboo around the subject.


Mental health is a topic that has been on my mind all semester yet somehow never gets talked about. Maybe I fall into that category of people that add to the stigma by not speaking my mind.

But here's a different problem, the portrayal of mental health issues in media, specifically South Asian media.

I am Indian and I am super proud of my heritage, but that doesn't mean I can't see its flaws. A recurring theme in my life is Indian cinema. I learned different languages and a whole lot of life lessons by watching movies. I've always been a literary nut, so I love to see the deeper meaning and symbolism in different works of art, my favorites being books and movies.

Since I've been home for break, I've gone back to my childhood habit of binge-watching Bollywood and Tollywood movies. This gives me a good scope of how certain parts of life are portrayed in various parts of India. Considering how diverse India is in terms of culture and language, it is not surprising that there are a lot of differences. The one unfortunate similarity, however, is the woefully unrealistic portrayal of mental illness.

In one movie, a man has depression and is an alcoholic. His illnesses cause him to become unable to work as a singer anymore. While this is happening, his lover is rising in the industry, which only serves to exacerbate his own gloom. At one point in the movie, she finds him laying in broken glass in his living room, which he tore apart in a drunken rage the night before. After momentarily kicking her out, he comes back to her pleading with her to help him. So far, so good, right? Typical cinema. However, after he hits rock bottom like that, instead of trying to figure out the root cause of issues or help him find a doctor or a rehabilitation center, she takes him to a cottage in a forest and tries to love his problems away. Honey, that's not how that works. Unsurprisingly, when he returns to society he is still depressed and he is still an alcoholic.

In another movie, two children develop dissociative identity disorder as a result of watching their respective families get massacred. They get separated after the incident as they flee to safety. They spend much of their adult life dealing with their illness while trying to locate their childhood friend (the other child). The boy grows up with a fantasy of enacting revenge on those who murdered his family. When all is said and done and the revenge plot is over, the end scene is literally a doctor seeing the two childhood friends reunite and saying "see, now their pain is over and they have found love, their illness will disappear with time."

I probably didn't do justice to the amount of sheer stupidity put into the mental illness arcs of these movies. I probably couldn't even if I spent all day trying. The idea that mental illness is something that is curable with "love" is ridiculous to me. There are so many people who suffer from depression and anxiety and personality disorders and other mental illness that come from loving backgrounds with beautiful families. There are just as many people who suffer with mental illness who don't have that. Mental illness can be much more manageable with a strong support system, sure, but there is no way in hell that another person can "cure" you with love.

Another big issue is that South Asian media loves to portray mental illness without ever naming it. It's as though naming it makes it more real. God forbid someone actually related to a character's situation. You can't fix a problem if you never admit there is one. This probably the biggest reason these types of narratives fall short from doing justice to the illness.

If you teach people that the answer to their problems is finding love, they will look for strength in other people instead of in themselves. The last thing a depressed person needs is some idealized version of love where every day someone is sacrificing their happiness for the other person. Romantic relationships should be between two equals. The best thing that can come out of a story like this a heartbreak and the worst thing that can come out of this is codependence.

This is not me saying that people with mental illness do not deserve love or cannot be in relationships. This is me saying that in a culture where mental health education is long-distant fantasy, in a world where even the most liberal countries hold a stigma against mental illness, these types of repeated half-assed mental health story arcs only serve to add to the problem.

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30 Things I'd Rather Be Than 'Pretty'

Because "pretty" is so overrated.

Nowadays, we put so much emphasis on our looks. We focus so much on the outside that we forget to really focus on what matters. I was inspired by a list that I found online of "Things I Would Rather Be Called Instead Of Pretty," so I made my own version. Here is a list of things that I would rather be than "pretty."

1. Captivating

I want one glance at me to completely steal your breath away.

2. Magnetic

I want people to feel drawn to me. I want something to be different about me that people recognize at first glance.

3. Raw

I want to be real. Vulnerable. Completely, genuinely myself.

4. Intoxicating

..and I want you addicted.

5. Humble

I want to recognize my abilities, but not be boastful or proud.

6. Exemplary

I want to stand out.

7. Loyal

I want to pride myself on sticking out the storm.

8. Fascinating

I want you to be hanging on every word I say.

9. Empathetic

I want to be able to feel your pain, so that I can help you heal.

10. Vivacious

I want to be the life of the party.

11. Reckless

I want to be crazy. Thrilling. Unpredictable. I want to keep you guessing, keep your heart pounding, and your blood rushing.

12. Philanthropic

I want to give.

13. Philosophical

I want to ask the tough questions that get you thinking about the purpose of our beating hearts.

14. Loving

When my name is spoken, I want my tenderness to come to mind.

15. Quaintrelle

I want my passion to ooze out of me.

16. Belesprit

I want to be quick. Witty. Always on my toes.

17. Conscientious

I want to always be thinking of others.

18. Passionate

...and I want people to know what my passions are.

19. Alluring

I want to be a woman who draws people in.

20. Kind

Simply put, I want to be pleasant and kind.

21. Selcouth

Even if you've known me your whole life, I want strange, yet marvelous. Rare and wondrous.

22. Pierian

From the way I move to the way I speak, I want to be poetic.

23. Esoteric

Do not mistake this. I do not want to be misunderstood. But rather I'd like to keep my circle small and close. I don't want to be an average, everyday person.

24. Authentic

I don't want anyone to ever question whether I am being genuine or telling the truth.

25. Novaturient

..about my own life. I never want to settle for good enough. Instead I always want to seek to make a positive change.

26. Observant

I want to take all of life in.

27. Peart

I want to be honestly in good spirits at all times.

28. Romantic

Sure, I want to be a little old school in this sense.

29. Elysian

I want to give you the same feeling that you get in paradise.

30. Curious

And I never want to stop searching for answers.
Cover Image Credit: Favim

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What Movie Musical You Should Watch, According To Your Zodiac Sign

With recent releases such as "The Greatest Showman" and "Mary Poppins Returns," movie musicals seem to be all the rage right now. So, which one should you watch according to your zodiac sign?


Two of my favorite things are movie musicals and astrology. Thus, I decided to use my knowledge and create a list of which musical is best for each zodiac sign.

1. ARIES: "Newsies"


"Newsies" is the perfect movie musical for the outspoken and hardworking Aries. Aries are natural-born leaders who are very insistent on getting their way and are also very faithful to their friends. With such faithful, driven and ambitious characters, as well as the overall theme of learning to not let anything get in the way of your goals, "Newsies" is a great watch for any Aries.

2. TAURUS: "Mamma Mia!"


If you're a Taurus, you're probably very easygoing and love to relax and is there a better way to relax than to be whisked away to Greece while listening to ABBA's greatest hits? A Taurus will love this fun and flirty movie musical, as well as appreciate the independence and confidence of its characters. So to any Taurus, next time you want to relax and indulge, just turn on Netflix and watch "Mamma Mia!"

3. GEMINI: "The Greatest Showman"


Geminis have a constant need for change — they hate dullness, repetition and routine. Also, this sign tends to be superficial and exaggerating, which fits perfectly with the circus aspect of "The Greatest Showman." But Geminis are natural-born entertainers and this high-tempo and lively musical will surely satiate their need for adventure and excitement.

4. CANCER: "Anastasia"


Home and family mean everything to Cancers, so "Anastasia" is a perfect watch for this emotional and compassionate water sign. This movie tells the story of a girl finding her true family and going on a "journey to her past" (*cue song*). With their need to be loved and appreciated, as well as their interest in history, Cancers will enjoy this story about finding where you truly belong.

5. LEO: "Chicago"


Leos are one of the most powerful and determined signs and are very extravagant and charismatic. "Chicago" is about two showgirls that, despite committing murder, find themselves in the spotlight (something that they absolutely love). Similarly, Leos love to be treated like a celebrity and hate being ignored, so "Chicago" makes the perfect watch for the theater-loving Leos.

6. VIRGO: "Beauty and the Beast"


Virgos love to draw in people with their fascinating stories and a major part of "Beauty and the Beast" is the importance of individual life paths. Virgos are intelligent, loyal and passionate like Belle, but can also be dominating and bossy like the Beast. And because of this movie's central theme of self-improvement, it makes a perfect watch for any Virgo.

7. LIBRA: "Hairspray"


The most Libras want out of life is harmony and to see all hate and injustice eliminated. Behind the catchy tunes and colorful '60s atmosphere, "Hairspray" has a more serious tone with the issue of discrimination and racism. In addition to the fight for equality, this movie is perfect for the romantic Libra because of its theme about finding love above all odds.

8. SCORPIO: "Les Misérables"


Scorpios are often misjudged because of their unwavering strong nature when in reality, they have strong and deep emotions. Like the young revolutionists in "Les Misérables," Scorpios face their problems with control, certainty and concentration, but underneath, they are fueled with strong emotion. The driven, passionate, truth-seeking and independent characters of this movie make it a perfect fit for any Scorpio.

9. SAGITTARIUS: "Funny Face"


This movie musical has everything a Sagittarius needs in life: freedom, travel and philosophy. In "Funny Face," Audrey Hepburn portrays a character who goes to France to learn about philosophy while exploring and meeting new people along the way. It's an optimistic and feel-good musical that will surely entertain a Sagittarius.

10. CAPRICORN: "La La Land"


Some of the most ambitious and goal-oriented people are actors, musicians and Capricorns. "La La Land" is the perfect movie for this earth sign because it demonstrates the hardships and discipline it takes to achieve your goals. With characters that are determined and driven for success, this musical will please any Capricorn.

11. AQUARIUS: "Enchanted"


An Aquarius will do anything that they can to help people and are constantly striving to make the world a better place. "Enchanted" is about an animated princess who finds herself in the real world, where she does as much as she can to help the people around her. With fairytale-like characters that are loyal, charming and friendly, this movie matches perfectly with the characteristics of an Aquarius.

12. PISCES: "Moulin Rouge!"


If "Pisces" was a movie, it would be "Moulin Rouge!" With its combined elements of music, romance, creativity and of course, a bohemian revolution, this film provides a perfect escape for this water sign. The emotional, delicate and naïve Pisces will love every aspect of this romantic tragedy and will without a doubt be crying by the end.

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