The next iconic woman to feature in our Super Women series is Dr. Anjali Chhabria – India’s leading psychiatrist and psychotherapist and author of the book Death is Not The Answer: Understanding Suicide and the Ways to Prevent It. Dr. Chhabria has been contributing to the field of mental health since the last two and a half decades. She runs Mindtemple – a mental health centre in Mumbai that caters to the psychiatric, emotional and behavioral needs of individuals. She is also a trained past-life regression therapist, hypnotist and has introduced innovative treatment modalities aimed at constantly improving patient care. With International Women’s Day just around the corner, our correspondent Odeal D’Souza interviewed Dr. Chhabria about her professional life and challenges.
What inspired you to become the person you are today?
My mother taught me to fearlessly speak out my mind and my dad helped me to strive for perfection. They always taught me to be truthful and honest in whatever I do. My mother-in-law wanted me to realise my dreams. All of them ensured that I got the opportunities they had missed and it was with their cooperation that I aimed high and broke the barriers slowly but surely. My kids continue to inspire me even today as they want me to achieve greater heights. Last but not the least, each patient of mine has inspired me to do the best for them and work harder. I feel that I still have miles to go. My ultimate goal is to reduce suicide rates in India and the world.
Why did you pursue Psychiatry as your profession?
The human mind always intrigued me. I wondered what triggered people to behave in a particular manner. I took to the field almost instantly and effortlessly realising that this was my calling. I was helping people chose life over death and giving them hope. This profession allowed me to help people smile after years of tears and helped them get over their fears.
What are the challenges you faced as a woman as you navigated your career path and also life as a whole?
I belonged to a traditional Indian family. I was the first doctor in the family so I had to really request and cajole the family for pursuing my higher studies. The stigma attached to being a psychiatrist proved to be a big challenge as people believed that this is not a woman’s job and said things like “Paagal ho Jayegi” and that there is no difference between a patient and a psychiatrist. People have asked me if I am a psychologist since the field was male dominated. I remember going for a conference where I was the only woman among 100 male colleagues.
Anything that you would like to comment on women’s mental health in India?
Mental health is generally a neglected area, more so in women. Women suffer more in India.
Your message for women on Women’s Day?
Do we celebrate Men’s Day? No, right! So similarly we should stop celebrating Women’s Day because every day is rightfully ours. Let’s stop gender discrimination and be truly equal.