Dr. Lavanya Seshasayee's Profile

Dr.Lavanya Seshasayee -The Mental Health Activist, Self-Advocate, Women’s Activist, Creative writer cum exceptionally revolutionary and Creative Thinker on women’s rights ,with a specialization in Gender and Mental Health Issues. I have been involved in the Indian recovery movement for women who are psychosocially challenged and have an intense interest in capturing their narratives through creative fiction. I got wedded 7 years ago and have a very supportive hubby who totally respects my freedom and rights as a woman. So far he has been the man behind my success. I have a lovely mother too who possesses a very special sensitivity to my work and relentlessly supports me in my ambition to work for the women with psychosocial challenges. 

I do derive a lot of satisfaction in challenging and dismantling power hierarchies such as those between the rich and the poor, men and women, the psychosocially challenged and so-called ‘sane’ world of mental health specialists. My aim in life-to bring about the death of male chauvinism and to spare no effort towards dismantling patriarchy with its morbid colonial-like manifestations- especially the way women are sexually controlled for the sheer pleasure that most men derive out of this dirty exercise. Sounds shocking? Well you better be shocked – a shock treatment to the societal framework would be the best means to procure rights and privileges for the millions of underprivileged masses of women. 

I also teach them how to secure their bargaining power that will help in gaining their rights, in short I am a woman WHO DARES TO BE DIFFERENT AND HAS THE GUTS TO DO SO!!! Is hatred the way to achieve our ends? No we stand for our rights with other people some of whom are men too – who have dreamed of an alternate existential reality for women as also others. These women and the men who support them shall be the vehicles for transmission of equality and social justice – this then is what I stand for in life. I have started an organization called the ‘Global Women’s Recovery Movement’ although people from all over the world shall be welcome to contribute their ideas to this movement that seeks to improve and change realities for women who are psychosocially challenged. The way they choose to deal with these psychosocial challenges in the context of societal reformation and personal reformation, will change their destiny and this is what I will teach them to do via a very unique mental health user-perspective-based-support system. I believe anybody with a disability can do things that they wish to via this unique support system. SO take care, thank you and have a wonderful day!    

I am a worker in Christ at a very personal level. I also have a very special admiration for Mother Teresa and her work still being done by the missionaries of charity all around the world. I am an ardent supporter of the feminist cause – let me be very clear about that. I believe in reaching out to meet the needs of the disabled and psychosocially challenged women all around the world. I possess incredible guts and have a will to change realities that represent a socially accepted powered status quo- o yes, 

And I don’t hesitate to discuss these brazen realities with a shocking frankness that most other women would not dare to possess or articulate with conviction owing to their pathetic socialization that robs them of capacity to think originally and question what is not fair. This is Lavanya for you!!! – The eternal revolutionary shocker who seeks to deconstruct societal taboos that have been instituted to privilege a select few in the first place. I am a great strategizer who can help other women maker an unfair system respond to their rights and needs through my specialized counseling which teaches them strategies to deal with the cultural imperialist. 



The following have been some epistemological debates I have had with the professional psychiatric community

One doctor says:

‘We are saying that someone may appear schizophrenic when in fact he or she is really just acting out in response to family chaos or other environmental disturbances.

Mis-diagnosis stems from a failure of the practitioner to evaluate what is going on at home and under what circumstances the patient acts up, and to consider alternate possible explanations. Family members will not usually volunteer the whole truth during a superficial visit with a doctor. Anyone who thinks that family members act the same way at home as they do in front of an authority figure, or that they will be totally honest about things like family violence or abuse, needs to get more information..”

Dr. Lavanya's response to this

I agree with him.

But yet another doctor says

Blaming the family for an individual’s schizophrenia is a fundamental fallacy, in my opinion, that for decades prevented psychiatrists from understanding the nature of mental disorders.

Family, as the cause of psychiatric illness is a dangerous fantasy. Suspecting family members of hiding “the whole truth” is a regrettable statement from a professional.

In reality, mis-diagnosis stems from dreadful diagnostic system. And is usually followed by mis-directed label-targeted treatment. [This according to me Lavanya is sheer rubbish. I will tell you why I think this is a nonsensical argument].

The problem is that we rely on assumptions that behavioural phenotypes are reliable indicators of neurobiological processes. Very few are, and when the phenotype is applied to children, fewer still says the same doctor.

Says another doctor:

The key question is about the role and scope of psychiatry as a medical field. Does psychiatry endeavour to treat mental diseases or see itself in existential role in saving humanity?


If psychiatry has to treat mental diseases accurately then it certainly DOES need to see itself in an existential role in saving humanity.

Another doctor says:

It might be possible, even probable, or even certain, that environment played role in emergence of psychiatric disorder as any stress environment exerted pressure on vulnerable systems will. But let’s examine it closer. He goes on to say:

Knowing that the leg was broken as a result of a skateboarding accident has no role in treatment of the compound fracture. Knowledge of proximal causes (environment, skateboard) has no effect on treatment course for the disorders (fracture, depression).

Dr. Lavanya's Response to this doctor would be:

How can you say the same thing applies to mental health which is by nature different from other medical specialities? It is not even apt to have the analogy of a skate boarding accident for explaining why a psychiatrist is not concerned about the social environment that lead to the mental illness. Indeed if we were to twist this very analogy of a skateboarding accident then it is imperative that we examine how and why the skateboarding accident took place so that we can design better methods that will prevent such accidents as we do need to also change conditions that led to the accident first of all and it is only when we accept that such conditions need to be changed that we actually design better ways of preventing such accidents and thus reduce the possiblity or alleviate the possibility of such a thing even happenning again- we need to go to the root cause of things and eliminate or improve them. Wouldn’t that be a much better solution than allowing such a thing to occur and then treating the fracture or the depression?  

Another doctor says:

When we see an adult who grew up in an “imperfect” environment presenting with affective disorder, it’s so tempting to blame the environment and proceed to “recover” evidence of previous child abuse (and if there is no evidence of sexual and physical, there must have been emotional, for sure) – making activists feel important and wise. In reality, the treatment of affective disorder should focus on the disorder and not on the previous environment unless we assume that all our patients are the victims.

Dr. Lavanya's Response to this doctor would be:

There can never be an effect without a cause. The very Newtonian paradigm that psychiatry is based upon will be refuting itself in the medical context if it claims that all patients are not victims. Indeed, all our patients are victims of deadly realities that exist irrespective of whether or not we care to admit their existence. ASK THE PERSON WHO HAS EXPERIENCED IT. I MAY READ A WHOLE LOT OF BOOKS ON HOW SWEETS TASTE BUT UNLESS I REALLY EAT A SWEET MYSELF I WILL NOT KNOW HOW SWEETS TASTE.

In order to know how a sweet taste, I have to actually eat sweets. It will not matter even if I read tons of material on how sweets taste. What am i trying to say? I’m saying- ‘validation of subjective realities is the need of the hour. My reality is reality as I experience it – and is not what somebody else says it is. Especially when that person lacks direct subjective experiential expertize.’

Another doctor says:

I am trying to demonstrate that role of the environment becomes minimal when we focus on treatment of patients (the role of psychiatry the way I see it). There are at least two reasons: 1. we never know for sure what caused the disorder.

Dr. Lavanya's Response to this doctor would be:

Do we never know or do we not want to take the hazzle of putting in effort to know what happenned on account of biased professional training or professional arrogance or whatever?

Another doctor says:

‘We can’t change patient’s past’

Dr. Lavanya's Response to this doctor would be:

We cannot change patient’s past but we can prevent the same past from becoming a present reality in the lives of several people in similar situations if only we care to investigate things without wanting to put on an objective cold medical analytical front just to show our power over those whom we treat- the medical gaze so to say- i have experienced this in psychiatry.
We need to know what the experiencer has experienced so that we may find ways of preventing similar things from being replicated in the lives of other  equally disadvantaged and thereby [in this sense] vulnerable people.

Says another psychiatrist

Who thoroughly supports the biomedical paradigm of Mental Illness.  In the example of “children who might actually be psychotic versus those who are acting out”, the only reason one can get confused between psychotic child (a rare bird, I’d say) and child acting out would be lack of solid diagnostic criteria and physician’s skill- not the role of environment. I’ve seen psychotic kids coming from the most loving and protective homes and fail to see environment as the “cause”.

What I am trying to convey is the effect of the environment IS OVER (done with) when the mental disease occurs. Otherwise, changing the environment would cure psychiatric disorders and that have never happened.

Dr. Lavanya's Response to this doctor would be:

I can tell you from personal testimony that changing my environment as also that of 12 other women with the user support model i came up with lead to our recovery. But for our activism we would have been declared innately defective, locked in rooms for the rest of our lives, been at the mercy of psychiatrists who could have even raped us had they wished to and treated us as mere bodies to be examined, and i have worked in several asylums where psychiatrists owing to their claims of objective analysis and explanations of illness discount the realities of clients on the pretext that they have ‘cognitive distortions’, that they will not improve no matter how much you help them via non-medical alternatives, that they live  in a delusional world, that they have no insight into their problem, that only a medical breakthrough can help them- i can quote sagas upon sagas of the professional brutalities i have experienced and had i not decided to find my own way out through activism without relying too much upon doctors my life would have been a perpetual mess.

Another doctor says​

There are others charged with betterment of the society. Our job is to treat patients. Other medical specialties do that, why psychiatrists can’t?

Dr. Lavanya's Response to this doctor would be:

You cannot do that because the realities of clients who come for help with mental problems are totally different from the realities of other patients as you would like to call them. Psychiatric illnesses are far more stigmatizing, crippling, than other diseases and can easily cause a civil death. Preventing the clients from having a civil death by providing them with legal empowerment and social inclusion,
demands that we also simultaneously focus on the betterment of society. The nature of the clients’ psychosocial handicap demands that psychiatrists also focus on societal betterment which will solve a multitude of problems. My own life as that of several other user survivors bears testimony to this.

Another doctor says

No one is “tarring” psychotherapists. The debate is about philosophy, conceptual understanding of the nature of mental illness. Choice of treatment is logical consequence of the visions. Psychodynamic (or old psychoanalytical) mind-set searches for the cause externally, while neurobiological thinking looks at evolution and internal causes.

Neurobiology recognizes environmental influences in shaping of the brain, there are enough data to support it. We don’t know, however, how the environment creates psychopathology and the role of individual vulnerability.

Dr. Lavanya's Response to this doctor would be:

We don’t have absolutely conclusive genetic studies also that confirm that schizophrenia is caused by inheritance of faulty genes – studies on environmental role modeling have negated many of these so-called scientific genetic studies which are more a reflection of professional negativity than anything else. These psychiatrists said i would not even succeed in becoming a graduate. I recovered and went on to complete my phd in women’s mental health and these people could not even offer a valid explanation as to why their professional predictions had totally failed.

Yet another argument put forth by psychiatrists would be

Out of 100 toddlers (adopted at birth) can one predict which kid will develop psychiatric disorder and what type even if we carefully evaluate and rate their adoptive families? Of course not.


This will not be possible because environmental influences do not only and merely constitute adoptive families. The adoptive families are going to interact with a hundred other social realities that cannot be predicted- the places they move on to, the people they meet, what happens in those places and with which of those people, who influences whom and how and why. However i do have a very strong argument against schizophrenia being genetically transmitted. If schizophrenia were to be genetically inherited then the identical twin of somebody with schizophrenia would always have schizophrenia but research has shown that this is not the case. Let us take into consideration two identical twins. To start with they have exactly the same genes. But when you put one of them in a pathological environment she develops a mental illness and when you put the other one in a very nurturing and conducive environment she becomes an achiever. So when genes are exactly identical but environments are different, individuals grow up and develop into totally different personalities. If you want to prove that environment is what causes schizophrenia you need to have two people with the same genes but different environments. There have been umpteen studies to prove this. However if you want to prove that faulty genes are what cause schizophrenia then you need to compare two individuals with different genes but  having the same environment. Now the crux of my argument is that two sets of genes can be exactly the same but no two environments can be exactly the same unless the two individuals grow in environments that are laboratory controlled for all variables and even twins grow in societies and not in laboratory controlled environments and so how can two environments be the same?- meaning how can you say the two environments that the twins have had are exactly similar?. If the identical twin of somebody with schizophrenia has not developed schizophrenia then it is because this healthy twin has had some sort of an environmental buffer that has prevented her from succumbing to schizophrenia. Consequently the twin sibling of this healthy twin has developed schizophrenia because she has not had the environmental buffers that had prevented her twin sister from succumbing to schizophrenia. There would have been some differences in their environments that would have contributed to the difference between the twins. My point is simple-two sets of genes can be exactly the same but no two environments can be exactly the same. So how can you thereby equate the two environments that the twins have had and say they are the same and that genetic vulnerability has thereby been a cause of mental illnes?.

Says another Doctor

In psychiatry we don’t treat patient population, we treat patients, and since we can’t tell how environment does it and to whom, we should focus on the patient and not the circumstances.


I will say with sarcasm-obviously you are right!! You have not been able to say how environment is responsible and thereby you have chosen to evade the challenge of establishing a link between environmental influences and schizophrenia, you are trying to avoid putting in work by glosssing over the issue and saying ‘we do not know how something happens and we should thereby not focus on finding out how it happens’- sheer escapism- which is so typical of psychiatrists!!! My experiences with the psychiatric setting have also confirmed this.
Yes i have a very, very, authetic story to tell indeed!!!

Another doctor says

Once again, let’s put environment where it belongs, proximal trigger of psychiatric pathology but not the pathogenesis of the disease. In medicine we treat pathogenesis. Environment isn’t it and we shouldn’t confuse the two.


When you haven’t even bothered to establish via a very logical and coherent argument against environment being the cause as contrary to what i have proved in one of my previous points, how can you say that environment is not the cause and that environment and pathogenesis should not be confused in terms of being the same?

Another doctor says

Lastly, saving humanity should be done outside one’s office. Patients do not come to see us to get lectures on better world. Calling patient’s life horrific, once again, indicates that you envision the environment as the cause of diseases – I strongly disagree.


Whether this doctor agrees or disagrees, I and many other user survivors have come here and are able to narrate what happened to us and what led to our disability which we overcame but is still causing untold misery to several other less fortunate people because we have relied much more on mental health advocacy than biological determinism as advocated by the biomedical paradigm. I have had several, several classmates who were a lot more sensitive and reactive than I was to minor wrongs being perpetrated on them at one point in time and still did not become victims of schizophrenia because they had very supportive brothers and sisters and mothers or some such person who nurtured them emotionally and supported them in all their ambitions. I have observed the trajectories of their growth and mine, I have performed much, much better than they did at studies and still wasn’t finally as successful as they were at one point in time which I considered very crucial simply because I came from a terribly, terribly, dysfunctional  familial  environment.

I have compared and contrasted my life and their lives in great detail.  By relying upon biological determinism to discount what I am saying and my experience and my pain and my narrative these psychiatrists are telling me that something is innately wrong with me. You are telling me I am innately defective – I shall never accept such an argument which is nothing short of victim blaming and I stand cured today precisely because of the sheer guts I had to question all these wrong things these people do as part of treatment and because I and my caregiver devised our own user survivor support system at a point in time when I contemplated suicide because of what these psychiatrists had done to me. I stand here today precisely because I relied more on activism and not too much on biological psychiatry.

Many of the psychiatrists are there simply to professionally negate whatever their clients say. Why can’t psychiatry change for the benefit of the user-survivor? Even in cases where a cure is effected clients are very often not empowered.

They just exist.

But I think, therefore I am! I am not simply content to exist and remaining passive in the wake of everything we have faced, amounts to merely existing and not living. I am something more than that and I live today to tell the world my story. And of course that is something that most psychiatrists are terribly scared of for which reason they come up with arguments that locate pathology in the individual and not in her or his dysfunctional environment. This is a very clever client-silencing tactic. This is what impedes recovery too and reinforces the client’s feeling of helplessness and this can drive her to commit suicide if she is very desperate and doesn’t get the kind of help she actually requires. To prevent suicides, we need to correct these epistemological flaws in psychiatry and the other allied mental health sciences. These flaws are at the root of the apathy of psychiatry and the other mental health sciences towards what is actually happening to the client deep within. These can and most often do cause a civil death which invariably precedes suicide.  We need to prevent civil deaths [the individual being reduced to a total non-entity by society] if we want to prevent suicide.

This then has been my journey – a self advocate’s journey to recovery and a full and passionate existence owing to FSA- o yes; I have something to live for!!!