Saraab serves as a guide on how to destigmatize mental health

With a stellar performance by Sonya Hussyn, the drama had some important lessons to teach us as a society and our attitude towards mental health


By Farheen Abdullah

KARACHI: Like many dramas, Hum TV’s Saraab also stirred some controversy before it went on air last year. As the team released teasers for the drama, audiences pointed out how ‘autism’ was incorrectly listed amongst other mental illnesses on the poster. Even celebrities like Shamoon Abbasi criticized the negligence of the team, including Sonya Hussyn who plays the role of Hurain, a person suffering from schizophrenia, in the drama. While Saraab might have gotten off on the wrong foot with audiences regarding its portrayal of mental health, the last episode in fact had a few things to teach us as a society. The drama, as a whole, can be used as a guide on how to change our attitudes towards mental health and truly lend a hand to those who need help.

Here are a few constructive takeaways from the drama:

Acknowledgement

It is no surprise that Sonya Hussyn does a stellar job with her portrayal of Hurain. In her performance, we can see the confusion, helplessness and utter chaos that is likely to exist in the mind of a person suffering from schizophrenia. But Saraab also proves that this is not just Hurain’s battle alone. She needs help from the people around her. Of coruse, like many people in our society, Hurain’s family also initially believes that she is crazy (‘pagal’). They even rely on peer, taaweez (trinket) and mazaar (shrine) to seek cure. But Hurain is ultimately diagnosed with schizophrenia and given proper treatment. Hurain very well understands her condition and her family learns to understand that too. Even till the last episode, every time she has a relapse, the family is quick to send her for treatment instead of brushing the topic under the rug or resorting to ineffective means of treatment.

Love and acceptance

The biggest lesson that Saraab has to teach its viewers is that everyone deserves love. Sami Khan as Asfandyar becomes the perfect example of unconditional love as he promises to stand by his love interest turned wife regardless of any hurdle and continues to do so till the very end despite serious challenges. The drama makes it very clear that Hurain’s condition will probably last a lifetime, but her circumstances and attitude towards the condition can definitely be changed. A mental condition cannot and should not hold anyone back from living the best life possible. A condition should not become the barrier between a person and their chances at marriage, parenthood, education or career.

Just another illness

It is true that mental health conditions tend to be very sensitive and require utmost care. Their treatment can take up a lot of time and energy but an important lesson to be learnt from Hurain’s doctor is that schizophrenia is just another illness that requires medication and attention. The treatment might last forever, but conditions like diabetes and blood pressure require patients to take medication for a lifetime as well. But do we, as a society, look at a person with diabetes and instantly call them ‘diabetic’ or use the term in a derogatory manner? Do we spend every minute reminding them of their illness or do we simply adjust their lifestyle to give them a healthy environment? Why can we not approach mental health the same way? Why does the topic have to be whispered, if talked about at all? Why have we created a society that people like Hurain might not even want to be a part of, simply because of the way they might be treated in it?

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