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Faith healing is unlike ‘absolute quackery’

Several factors contribute to people resorting to faith healing

Gulf News

New Delhi: Even as there may be no direct scientific proof of the effectiveness of faith healing, it is being extensively used in India as a method of treating mental illnesses.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that certain people do benefit from faith healing, either in conjunction with allopathic medication or without.

Several factors contribute to people resorting to faith healing as a means of psychiatric treatment. Not always the last resort, it very often precedes other forms of treatment, as it is rooted in India’s cultural tradition and offers both reason and treatment for psychiatric ailments. This explains why faith healing is not just accessed by those in rural areas, but by the average urban Indian as well.

Forty-eight-year-old J.B. Malik provides spiritual healing to cure various kinds of mental illnesses in the capital. Claiming a success rate of 80 per cent, he uses various mantras from ancient Vedic texts to cure people of mental disorders.

“India has a rich history of treatment of mental illnesses in traditional, spiritual practices. Durgahs, temples and churches are just a few examples of places where people seek remedies rooted in religion. It is different from absolute quackery where witch doctors prey on people who are already suffering and in need. In order to become a healer, it requires austerities. Everyone has the ability but it takes great dedication to use it,” Malik tells Gulf News.

He believes that there are no exclusive solutions for mental illnesses and, therefore, people seek alternative methods of treatment

“Why do people go to the faith healer? Because the hospital has failed! No doubt there are inadequate number of psychiatrists and facilities for medical treatment in India as compared to other developed countries, but it is difficult to believe that psychiatry is the only answer to mental illness. Faith healing is common and prevalent, more or less, all over the world, may be more in India,” he adds.

To make his point, Malik gives the example of his neighbour’s son who did not do well in his studies and was taken to a psychiatrist.

“He was given electric shocks and ever since, he went into further and further decline becoming a big nuisance for everybody around. Clearly, psychiatry is not a solution to mental health problems. I understand that turning to God and doing weird things is also not the solution. But at least that is not as harmful as putting a 12-year-old child to life-long medicine and electric shocks.

“Friendly, gentle support and non-religious spirituality is far more effective than stuff like Xanax or Paxil, both destroyers of human life,” Malik says.