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Being human

PT Jyothi Datta | Updated on April 11, 2021

Politicians and sportsperson can help ‘normalise’ health issues

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s television campaign to get more people to vaccination centres has, in a subtle way, sent out another message as well.

In saying that he too has “sugar” problems and showing him taking a blood test on a glucometer, the CM may have helped people living with diabetes to see someone like themselves. And not have to hide it.

In a liberal environment, people may not hesitate to speak about their ailments, a thyroid problem, diabetes or cancer. But there are many who still live in the closet, fearing stigma of some sort.

It’s difficult to understand why there’s stigma involving any illness, but unfortunately, that’s just how it is.

And given that backdrop, the CM’s disarming statement about his diabetes plays an important role in telling people that it is normal to have health issues. Politicians, sportspersons, heads of companies and so on have all lived with health-issues and had a successful run. Ace pace-bowler Wasim Akram is one of the most vocal spokespersons on diabetes and champion-cyclist (now fallen from grace) Lance Armstrong’s book on cancer — It’s not about the bike — is one of most upbeat books to read, ever.

Mental health has only recently become a point of conversation, as more celebrities speak up about their anxieties and depression. But this is still a long road to travel, as many families hesitate to have a counsellor guide them.

When a male sportsperson speaks about dealing with a health-problem, it helps bust the myth of machismo. Many people, especially impressionable ones, are under pressure to be picture-perfect. So when someone like cricketer Yuvraj Singh speaks of beating cancer, people listen. And people with cancer, draw strength.

There is an added advantage when politicians speak about their health-issues — it makes them relatable, and human. Politicians could do well to show their audience that they are one of us, and not supermen or women descended to lead from a different planet.

Published on April 11, 2021

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