This interview is reprinted with permission from Hinduism Today.
Dr. Mahesh Gandhi, M.D. (Psych) is a psychiatrist and homoeopath, well known for his psychiatric cases treated successfully with Homoeopathy. He has been closely associated with Dr. Rajan Sankaran for more than 15 years. His cases have been published in Insight to Plants.
VS: As a homeopath, how do you see psychiatry?
MG: Psychiatry is based on a biological / chemical model of disease. Everything is seen as a disturbance in the body and the neurotransmitters. Psychotherapy and psychiatric analysis are time consuming. Before the 1950s psychiatry was not a mainstream medical field. Since the 1950s, drug based treatments have been giving quicker results. This progress has come at a price. Allopathy and psychiatry focus on the disease and lose sight of the patient as an individual. For every diagnosis there is a drug. When the root cause is not treated, the drug-based solution is temporary. Symptoms of anxiety, depression etc. can be improved with drugs but if there is no inner change, the outcome is short lived. Drug and lab-test based treatments are okay for acute infections and deficiency states but for chronic illnesses, people must explore other options for their well-being instead of becoming drug-dependent. The suppressive nature of allopathy and psychiatry upset people who want a drug-free and holistic approach to health. In homeopathy, patients are understood as individuals, listened to and they feel a general sense of well-being.
VS: What are the various mental health issues you encounter in your practice?
MG: I see patients with anxiety, panic disorders, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar manic depressive disorder, schizophrenia, paranoia, anorexia and bulimia, addictive tendencies, children’s problems, bedwetting, behavioral disorders, ADHD, autism, mental retardation, geriatric and sexual problems. With homeopathy, all these conditions respond beautifully. For some issues, homeopathy is best as the first line treatment. I advise parents to see a homeopath before drugging their kids. With drugs, kids will get better only for a short time and the problem never goes away fully. Pharmaceutical companies bring out more and more drugs for younger and younger kids. It is a very risky and scary situation.
VS: What is the general awareness of people about homeopathy and its place in mental illness?
MG: Before becoming a homeopath, I was a successful psychiatrist. Patients came for drug based treatment. Now, with increasing awareness, people ask for homeopathy. They don’t want to take drugs for life and experience the side-effects. People want holistic approaches, and in India homeopathy is the first choice for over 100 million people.
VS: Can grief, loss and abandonment be treated with homeopathy?
MG: Yes. I just saw a man in his 40’s who lost his wife to cancer. His grief is raw. He loves and idolizes his dead wife and will never let her go from his mind. Many psychiatrists have given him antidepressants but he continues grieve and be depressed. I told him that instead of remembering his wife with sadness, he can remember her with joy. During case taking, I explored all areas of his life, his personality and relationships but I didn’t give him antidepressants. With a remedy that matches his state of grief, now he remembers his wife with a happy smile.
VS: As a homeopath, do you engage with patients in an empathetic manner or are you just a doctor? Mainstream medicine is all about detachment, distance and impersonal treatment.
MG: As a homeopath, I listen first, without giving advice about acceptance, logic, fate, destiny, karma and god’s role in our life. I do not tell patients to cultivate gratitude and compassion and learn a lesson. I listen because the patient needs to be heard. Attentive listening acts like a medicine. Patients feel safe and understood. In fact, a homeopath is like a mother. When a patient comes to us, we care and listen with empathy. The whole process might appear to be quite feminine. Allopathy is about logic, problem solving, rigid protocols and routines. Homeopathy deals with emotions and feelings. There is a human touch. That is what a patient in pain and suffering needs, the touch of a mother. They feel our empathy even when we do not use words full of kindness and compassion. We can be good homeopaths and great human being at the same time.
VS: Can homeopathy help people traumatized by sexual, familial and communal violence?
MG: When tragedy strikes, some people cannot forget and move on. They get stuck. Then the situation becomes traumatic. One patient said to me that in her childhood, a thief broke into her house and raped her at knife-point. While describing this event, she appeared undisturbed. I asked her about her feelings during the event. She said, ‘I felt that my life is more important. If I let this crazy man finish his misdeed and go away, I will get over it and move on with my life.’ In this case, this patient’s personal attitude helped her get over what could otherwise be described a highly traumatic event. When people come to me with various traumas in their background, I always check into their feelings and thoughts at the time when the event was happening. This gives me a clue whether they are stuck or they have moved on. Assessing an individual’s response and reaction to a situation allows us to understand them as an individual. At that point we can provide an individualized remedy to help them. Throughout the process, we must function without prejudice, stay clear of our own sensitivity and listen to the patient without interfering. We must stay positive, have a genuine desire to help, remain non-judgmental and see things as they are. In that way homeopathy is a very humanistic healing modality.
VS: How can homeopathy help patients with substance dependence and addictions? In the USA alone, 65,000 people die every year because of addiction to painkillers.
MG: Substance abuse and dependence is a reflection of the disturbance in the vital force. With treatment, the relationship of patients to these substances undergoes change. As homeopaths, we work to calm down the habits of self- medication by exploring the root cause that enables the patient to become dependent on the substance. Once the vital force is balanced, the habits go way. People don’t need crutches because their fundamental issues are treated with remedies.
VS: Do people with gender related trauma find help with homeopathy? In the West, gays, lesbians and transgender people are making headlines with their choices.
MG: Gender-related trauma is increasing in India though Indians are family-oriented and not self-centered. Parents want their gay son to become straight. The boy feels angry and sad due to this familial pressure. I talk to the boy. If he is okay with his attraction for men, I respect his individuality and don’t treat him. Not everyone feels okay with their inclinations and choices. Some feel guilty for having attraction to the same sex. They want to change. These are the candidates for treatment with homeopathy. In the end a person has to feel happy with himself, irrespective of whether he spends his life with a woman or a man. I am not going to tell him if his choice is right or wrong, or what choices he should make but I will help him become comfortable and happy with his choice. To that end homeopathy can help because homeopathy is totally patient-centered. They are not judged on the basis of morality, good and bad, right and wrong, social standards, stigmas and religious dogma. Sometimes a patient likes to know if I can change him as a person? My answer is no. Homeopathy does not turn a tiger into a cat and a cat into a horse. It just facilitates him to be a better version of himself. That is the beauty of homeopathy.
VS: Is there any similarity between Ayurveda and homeopathy? After all, Ayurveda originated in India and India has become the world leader in homeopathy.
MG: In Ayurveda, we have the concept of pancha kosha – Annamaya (food), Pranamaya (vital force), Manomaya – (mind), Vijnanamaya – (intellect) and Anandamaya – (bliss).
When a person journeys from the outermost to the innermost fifth kosha, he can uncover his true self, the atman and he might find the ultimate unity between atman and paramatman. Amongst the five koshas, the outermost ones are subject to change, but in the very core, the anandamaya kosha is about sat-chit-ananda and it remains unaffected by the changes in the outer koshas. When disturbances are encountered in the outer koshas – annamaya, pranamaya and manomaya koshas – these disturbances cloud the inner radiant anandamaya kosha. When in too much pain and physical suffering, it becomes difficult to remain focused on the inner bliss. When you throw a coin in a pond, so many ripples are made that you cannot see the bottom. When the water settles, you can see the coin and the bottom. As homeopaths we remove ripples and imbalances of the three outer koshas – annamaya (food / body), pranamaya (life/ vital force) and manomaya (mind) kosha so that their functions and expressions change for the better. In a way, we help our patients with their true spiritual purpose and help them move toward their anandamaya kosha. This is the ultimate goal of human beings on the earth.
The modern technological medicine and psychiatry think that the problem is only in the body and brain. Treat the affected part with drugs and the problem will go away. We homeopaths think that the problem is neither in the body nor in the mind, it is in fact, in the pranamaya kosha, the Vital Force. Disturbances in the Vital Force affect the body and mind and bring about changes that are perceived subjectively and objectively as symptoms. Homeopathic treatment is directed at correcting the imbalance of the Vital Force.
Both these systems of medicine are holistic. They work on the core constitution and the koshas. Both mention doctrine of signatures, and advise about lifestyle and habits. Homeopathy has its own unique way of preparing medicines. In homeopathy we simply concern ourselves with the expressions of the Vital Force and how to balance it. Symptoms are the language of the Vital Force that is in need of help.
VS: Can allopathic and homeopathic medicine work alongside each other?
MG: Allopathic medicines are material doses of chemicals. Homeopathy is energy medicine. Material medicine and energy medicine work at different levels. Material medicine (allopathy) affects the body. Energy medicine (homeopathy) affects the Vital Force. They can be used side by side. If a person has sustained a gunshot, or broken his back in an accident, it is best that he goes to an emergency room. Once he is stable, homeopathy can address the residual emotional trauma felt by the patient and restore balance to his Vital Force. Modern medicine is excellent for crisis management. It is a failure in managing chronic cases and deep seated emotional and mental disturbances for which, homeopathy is most effective. Every stream of medicine has its place in healthcare.
VS: What is your approach to patients who want to stop medications and rely on homeopathy completely?
MG: Weaning off the drugs is possible. It is a gradual process and must be done under expert supervision.
VS: Do you advise about lifestyle, diet and exercise? Most ancient modalities like Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine, as well as homeopathy recognize the role of diet and lifestyle in wellness.
MG: Yes. Just giving homeopathy medicines is not right. People in an abnormal state of health will have abnormal cravings and desires for example, craving for sugar, unhealthy foods, and other stimulants. Ayurveda talks about balance of vata, pitta and kapha. Homeopathy recognizes the imbalance of wind, bile and phlegm and considers the changes in these for selection of remedies. In this picture, healthy diets and habits, exercise and clean environment all have a place alongside homeopathic medicines. With highly individualized homeopathic treatment, people begin to make healthy choices. I have seen kids not asking for chips and chocolate anymore. As they become healthy, their unhealthy cravings go away. Becoming healthy from inside, you invite health promoting habits and energies into life.
VS: Many old cultures believe that possession by malevolent entities results in mental illness.
MG: Psychiatry was built upon the concept of entity possession. In India we think we are haunted by our karma. In Hahnemann’s time, mental health patients were considered possessed and treated worse than animals. These cruel practices were based on ignorance. Even now some people believe that mental illness is a form of possession by negative entities. Some mental health patients are convinced that they are possessed and therefore they behave in an aberrant manner. I try to educate them as needed and try to understand the patients. In our homeopathy materia médica we have an entire huge section on mind, fears, delusions, illusions, and various other mental symptoms and anomalies. It is a state of the mind that creates delusions and illusions. It is maya. Homeopathy has a way of understanding these conditions and alleviating them.
VS: How can homeopaths give a hint to their patients about the side effects of drugs without picking a fight with the pharmaceuticals?
MG: We are defined by what we fight with. When we lose our temper and become angry, we become weak. Leave the big Pharma alone. Just practice good homeopathy. Let people decide what they want to use. People know about side effects. They are brainwashed into believing there are no alternatives to drugs. I tell them to explore other holistic options. The same can be said about the skeptics. They do what they want, we do what we can.
VS: Do you have any message for people who might have family members with mental health disease?
MG: Be open minded and hopeful. Life is not finished just because someone has a mental illness. Many things can be done to help these patients. There are alternatives and homeopathy offers a safe, gentle, noninvasive, holistic and spiritually oriented alternative that is in tune with the ancient healing modalities like Ayurveda and Chinese medicine. Be bold in your choice and try homeopathy.