Trauma from casteism: Students say need mental health facilities, support groups

NEW DELHI : Panic at a job interview, beaten down confidence levels in a classroom over broken English or a sense of alienation upon finding nothing familiar in a new cultural context – students and young professionals form Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe communities are discussing these afresh in the aftermath of Dr Payal Tadvi’s suicide.

While on the one hand, these discussions reiterate that discrimination takes multiple forms, on the other hand, some are also drawing attention to the need for accessible and affordable mental health care for those suffering distress associated with subtle and unsubtle casteism.

“Humiliation and rejection are daily experiences for Dalit students and professionals, and those from other marginalised communities. Even if it’s not overtly casteist remarks, deep psychological distress is caused to young people from such communities when a comment is made about, for example, their skin colour or the way they speak English,” said Dr Rewat Kaninde, former president of the Ambedkar Medicos Association that works in medical colleges across the state.

Currently working at JJ Hospital in Mumbai, Dr Kaninde said the absence of SC/ST cells in Maharashtra’s medical colleges despite UGC directives adds to the lack of support for SC/ST students thrown into a new cultural milieu. “The work load in medical colleges is already immense, and then when your credibility is questioned as it was in Dr Payal’s case — she appeared to have been called a bhagodi or shirker — it can shatter your confidence and lead to mental health issues,” he added.