- Social exclusion and mental health are closely connected.
- Ostracization in India is common across caste, class, religion, gender, and disabilities.
The recent Hijab Ban in Karnataka rocked India and laid bare the ugly reality of social exclusion and mental health in the country. Testimonies from Indians themselves show how deep-rooted social exclusion is and how it has severely affected the mental and physical well-being of the citizens.
“Social exclusion” is a process in which an individual or a group of individuals are denied rights and opportunities to participate in the basic economic, political, and social functioning of the society. It is done through deprivation, inequality, and cruelty.
Research shows that social exclusion in India begins at home and percolates the society—existing across caste, religion, gender, class, sexuality, body image, skin color, physical disabilities, mental health, and family dynamics. In the post-Covid era, social discrimination has trickled into clothing practices, food habits, and access to medical resources like life-saving oxygen and medicines.
The recent rise in mental health problems, suicide, and socio-political disturbances have shifted the focus on how social exclusion affects mental health.
Social exclusion puts individuals at risk of mental health issues. The stress from ostracization, the negative emotions arising from deprived opportunities, and difficult coping mechanisms have negatively impacted their well-being, self-esteem, and social relationships.
The trauma of systematic social exclusion also outlives generations and harms communities, as seen in the Muslims and Dalits. Psychiatrists and social scientists have also shared alarm at the social exclusion and its impact on the mental health of women, LGBTQ people, and those with physical and intellectual disabilities.
It must be understood that ostracization is a vehicle of escapism and oppression, influenced by social prejudices and scapegoating. In its ‘principles’, individual well-being, growth and development get replaced with ‘toxic needs’ of acceptance and social assimilation.
So, we must fight social exclusion with social equality and justice. We must raise awareness against ostracizing and fight its negative effects with laws, social acceptance, infrastructural changes, and mental health approaches.
Like, Amit Monga, Manager of Sunrise Public School, says, “There should be a special department in Government or a ministry to transform the overall societal acceptance and importance of mental health.”