There are many ways to view mental illness. Some have depicted their struggles through art, music, poetry, song, or writing. For dancer Devapriya Appan, one way of revealing the pain of mental illness is through dance.

A Doctor and a Dancer

Devapriya Appan has been dancing for 26 years, since she first discovered a love for the Indian classical dance style bharatanatyam; but dance isn’t her only passion. Currently, at age 32, she is training as a psychiatrist in Singapore. One day, she hopes to be able to help the cause of better mental health in Singapore.

Appan has discovered a unique way to blend her love of dance and her passion for mental health. In October, she starred in a production called “Finding Dignity: An Exploration of Mental Illness Through Bharatanatyam.” The production was staged at the School of the Arts Theatre and revealed a tale of one young woman’s struggle with schizophrenia. Through dance, the show also explored the emotions of the afflicted woman’s mother as she struggled with her daughter’s diagnosis.

Social Stigma and Rejection

When Appan first began training as a psychiatrist in Singapore, she realised that many people in her society were treated differently because of their mental illness. They lacked advantages and suffered from social stigma. Appan began to take a closer look at the way patients’ families react when a loved one is diagnosed with a mental illness. She took time to listen and to comprehend the challenges that the patients and their relatives face from society and from each other.

Her role as the schizophrenic woman immersed her even further into the world of a mentally ill individual. “Playing this part has broadened my horizons and made me empathise more with patients, says Appan. “I’ve tried to understand more about the personal experience of psychosis by speaking to people in recovery and reading books by persons with mental illness.”

A Story of Hope

Lalitha Venketasubramanian played the part of the mother in the show. The 49-year-old has danced in productions with Appan before, and she was the mastermind behind “Finding Dignity.” She thought of the concept herself, then investigated and researched her idea with the help of patients, caregivers, and doctors. What she heard from the patients was a strong desire not to be rejected or stigmatised because of an illness they could not control. In the caregivers and doctors, she saw examples of acceptance, strength, and hope. She created the script based on her findings, and her team of artists and dancers helped her with music, lyrics, and choreography.

Venketasubramanian hopes that the show will be used for charity events and other public productions. “We change our behavior when we care,” she says. “Theatre and dance is a perfect medium for this.”

Do you or a loved one suffer from mental illness like depression in Singapore? At Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic, you’ll have access to the top psychiatrists and psychologists in Singapore. You’ll be welcomed into a confidential, caring environment where you can have profitable sessions and start a course of treatment that will help you get better. Contact us today for more information.

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Source: Straits Times, October 11, 2016