Dr Sanjay Chugh has enjoyed great prominence as one of the topmost psychiatrists of the Capital. He has regular “agony aunt “ columns in a number of newspapers and magazines. During the fifteen odd years of practice he has helped to cure, reduce and effectively manage many psychological maladies including alcoholism and drug abuse et al that are rampant in the society today especially in the metros. A hardcore Delhiite Dr.Chugh has made Dhaka (in Bangaldesh) his second home where he runs two hospitals there. He is a Life Fellow of the Indian Psychiatry Society and Life Member of the Indian Medical Association. He has the distinction of being the Founder Chairman of International Institute of Mental Health, besides International Institute For Deaddiction Research and Therapy.National Network Of Education
|Dr. Sanjay Chugh|
team managed to catch up with him in early July,when he had just got back from Dhaka .Excerpts from the conversation: Tell us about your early years, schooling, higher education etc ?
I am a hard core Delhiite, lived in this city all my life. I studied in Delhi Public School Mathura Road. After completing class XII, I found I did not know what to do; so dutifully filled in the forms for all the IITs and so many medical colleges. I got through all of them. Finally I opted for MBBS and I joined Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi. After graduation, the question of specialization came up. I was not inclined towards surgery, so I opted for medicine, but soon after realized that it was to monotonous to complete your MD in one of the branches of medicine and become a General Physician., eventually having to get stuck up in some hospital. I knew Iwanted to set up practice, be independent. Then I was exposed to psychiatry, one short-term posting in psychiatry during my house job tenure. This was probably the first and the most fascinating subject that I had come across. Then I felt this was probably the line I would want to get into.So, are you saying that you got into psychiatry by chance?
Not exactly. Actually I used to read a good deal and the human mind always fascinated me. I used to read a lot about the human mind. You read Freud and Jung and saw them in a new light; you realized that they were people who were trying to figure out something that was totally intangible and nebulous.What was your source of inspiration?
No inspiration, it is just that the mind fascinated me. I would sit and observe the the way people behaved and wondered as to why they behaved the way they did. It was all very interesting. It was much much more interesting than putting a stethoscope on a chest figuring out whether there was infection in the lungs or not. It was the curiosity, the mystique or the aura of the human mind that finally convinced me that this is what I want. Then I did not write my PG entrance in any other subject. Psychiatry was the only thing I opted for.Any memorable incidents in course of your psychiatric practice?
Oh yes, there are several. There was time when a person who was frankly psychotic. Iam huge sizewise. This poor fellow was twice as big as me; he was manic (suffering from Manic Depressive Psychosis) he caught me by my throat and was hell-bent on killing me. That was a memorable incident. There were other occasions when one has faced possible or actual physical harm. But what is gratifying is the results that you can achieve. Psychiatric morbidity places so much of burden on the individual and his family, that once the illness starts to go away,it is actually a before &after situation. The huge amount of change in the quality of life that you help to bring about is really gratifying. People have a notion that there is no permanent cure for mental diseases. How far is this true?
What you have heard is part of the misconceptions connected with mental health. There are no ultimate cures for a lot of ailments including hypertension. There are a lot of physical diseases that will take your life, but psychiatric disease s don’t do that. There are very very well defined, very clearly laid out protocol as to what preventive medicine should be prescribed, how long a particular drug should be administered, the maximum dosage, how to taper off the medication, in course of treatment etc. In a country like ours, psychiatry illness is basically a dustbin diagnosis , most of the treatment is carried on by unqualified people, mainly quacks or regd. medical practioners (rmp)or at best those who have done MBBS.They attend to 60-70% of the psychiatric morbidity load in this country.The rest 30-40% are taken care of by non psychiatrists, though they may be specialists like cardiologists , neurologists. It is due to this mishandling actually, that diseases become chronic, resistant or unmanageable.What are the commonest psychological problems prevalent among the youth in our country today?
The commonplace problems are depression and anxiety. There are the problems of substance abuse (drugs & alcohol), adjustment problems, lots of relationships problems, and several misconceptions around sexuality, which gives rise to problems.People are reluctant to visit psychiatrists. Your comments?
I do not wish to comment whether this statement is right or wrong. What I have observed people who are suffering do not have any such problem. Those who come to see me do not wish to be seen waiting outside my chamber. They have problems and wish to get rid of them, but they would rather do it in a discreet manner.In psychiatry as a profession, what are the ups and downs, the advantages and disadvantages?
Ups are so many . Infact I personally feel that it would not have been possible for me to be so successful, professionally, financially, had I got into any other profession. In India today you have one psychiatrist for roughly 50,000 patients. It is a very bad ratio. I see 15-20 patients in a day and end up having a headache. The scope inthiscountry is tremendous. It is unimaginable. Because the demand is so high and the supply is so low, that is why it was easy for everybody to succeed in this field. The biggest disadvantage in this line is the huge amount of stress that is placed on the psychiatrist. He has to listen to the sorrows and unhappiness of others. Due to reasons of confidentaility, I cannot talk about my patients or discuss the cases with even my wife. So as a rule psychiatrists start bottling up their own thoughts, feeelings and emotions. They cannot talk about their patients to anyone. Ultimately they reach a stage where they are unable to even talk about themselves.What are the personal qualities, which a psychiatrist should possess?
? You must have the ability to empathize with your patients.
? You must be non-judgemental and objective in your approach.
? You need to have a high level of tolerance.
? Must learn to accept that like everything else humanity has its blacks and whites.
? Must have the capacity for handling human misery and suffering. How does it feel to be a celebrity?
Fame means nothing to me, you know. I am sure most people who are “ famous” cannot figure out why they are so, and other persons with the same background and qualifications is not equally well known. Just because people recognise me in the streets, just because you are interviewing me and not any other psychiatrist does not mean I am a very good. It’s just that I have been lucky somewhere, I have been able to handle the media better and lot of other things. You do enjoy it, you know. It feels good to think your face is better recognised than that of most people around you. I don’t think fame has too much to do with the individual as such. It has a lot to do with luck.What is the future of psychiatry as a profession In India?
I don’t think India will ever get anywhere close to the optimum number of psychiatrists that are required. The reason being the population is increasing and with it the mental problems. We will never have even 20% of the number of psychiatrists required to serve our people.If not a psychiatrist what would you have been?
Had I been in any other field I thinkI would still have been successful. Once you have the raw material, all depends on how you mould it. (Ummmm) I think I would have been into Finance, Management, an MBA perhaps……..