Is Laughter the Best Medicine? | Rohini Rau | TEDxIIITBangalore


it's a sick surgery in the last two

months the tumor keeps coming back how

am I going to pay these hospital bills I

haven't seen him smile even once in the

last few days she hasn't eaten anything

I just want to go home and just go back

to the way things were how many of you

have been to a hospital every single one

of you will visit a hospital either for

yourself or to visit a friend or a loved

one in India a government hospital is

visited by 5,000 to 10,000 patients

every single day and there are much more

number of patients than the number of

beds available you will see them on the

floor on the staircase probably anywhere

their space now let's come to the

doctors they don't even have time for

themselves how are they going to see so

many patients it's filled with anxious

people not knowing what to do imagine

anxious parents of children not knowing

what they are going through trauma pain

emotional highs and lows a complete loss

of control of what's happening in the

situation or even what's happening to

their own bodies it's the opposite of

home a place that you can never get used

to no matter how many times you go there

people stay in a hospital for sometimes

a day a week or even months

imagine being filled with this this kind

of negativity and this kind of

environment what would that do to your

mental health is it something we should

worry about especially in India I mean

we don't see it so it doesn't exist

right but there are statistics to show

that mental illness

on the rise but is there something that

we can do in the or already existing

infrastructure that we have that doesn't

tax doctors and nurses anymore that are

already we all know the power of


right laughing laughter yoga laughter

therapy the endorphins the way it makes

you feel the way when you look at

someone and smile that's all you need

right there are studies to show that it

even aids in recovery in faster recovery

you'd be surprised to know that when you

are a child you laugh about 150 times a

day but as you grow into an adult that

number reduces to just 15 so it's not

surprising to know that in a hospital

that number is zero how do we get

something like laughter into the four

walls of a hospital how do we do

something that doesn't already exist how

do we create that negative space into

something more cheerful is it really

that important is it something that we

should invest in well doctor patch Adams

seem to think so

you might have heard him from the films

but it's based off on a real person

he's dr. hunter Adams he believed that

love laughter and love are the two

things you need to treat a community

especially when it came to mental health

in the 1970s he started practicing

something that we now follow as modern

day Hospital clowning what started off

in America has now spread wild wild

around the world in Europe in Australia

in fact there are countries like Israel

that offer this as a paramedical course

yes you can get a degree to become a

hospital clown now what is Hospital

clowning no we're not circus clowns

we are not entertainers yes we do have

that red

but if you notice closely we're not

wearing as much makeup or not too many

you know elaborate accessories or

costumes what I'd like to think that we

are the link between the patient and the

hospital healthcare workers and the

doctors we're able to create that trust

that bond that not many people can

especially in that setting now a session

can be quite intimate with just one

patient and we usually work in pairs the

clowns as Hospital clowns but it can

also be as involved as an incomplete

ward of patients and their families and

the doctors and the nurses but

essentially what we are trying to do is

alleviate the pain and suffering and to

just make them feel more cheerful so to

speak we're also trying to give them a

sense of control and give them an

opportunity through the various tools we

use like music dance theater magic to

give them a chance of expression of

expressing themselves emotionally so

what do I mean by when I say giving

control back to the patient to explain

this a little bit let me go back a few

months there was a six-year-old boy who

had just had an open-heart surgery and

this was I think the second or third

post-op daim he was in so much pain that

he couldn't eat or drink anything and

when he coughed it hurt even more the

doctors had given him the maximum dose

of painkillers that they could for his

body weight so all his parents could do

was just watch him cry in pain and do

nothing and feel so helpless about it so

my fellow Hospital clown and I we go in

we are prepared you know we do come

prepared with a certain bunch of you

know things that we can do for them but

this time we decided to twist it a

little bit we started off by telling

them a story telling him a story where

he was the hero

and when he

said the magic words the story moved

forward and he did incredible things so

we made him believe that he had the

power to change things

so immediately my partner held his

stomach and was just like oh my god and

this is too much pain I can't handle

this pain is there anybody who can help

me get rid of at least half the pain so

the little boy looked and said yeah I

can help I can do something so he said

the magic words and a light flashed from

the fingertip of our thumb and we pull

the pain out and we all saw us through

the pain out of the window and my

partner literally when oh my god this

this pain is almost disappeared thank

you so much it's because of you so I

looked at the boy and said now you have

done something for someone else see how

powerful you are now if you believe you

can take away half that pain the only

thing you can do it for yourself he

looked at me and said yeah I think I can

do it so all of us together we had no

idea if this was going to work we all

said those magic words together put that

light out through the pain out of the

window he turned around and looked at

his mom and said Amma pain half of the

pain is gone Amma the doctor was

dumbstruck he just couldn't believe that

something could have happened so quickly

and it happened right before our eyes so

that's what I mean by giving control

back to the patient he felt that he

could control the way he felt and what

he could do and that he could control

his own body so what is hospital

clowning yes it uses a lot of laughter

but I don't think it's the main thing I

feel it's the byproduct of all the

different things we do and laughter is

one of it there is a form of distraction

therapy what I mean is for example if a

nurse comes in to put in an IV line we

can immediately distract the child

because I feel that the anticipation of

getting the IV line is much more painful

than the actual procedure itself so when

we do that they don't really feel the

pain it's a lot of collaboration because

we need to speak to the doctors and the

nurses first of all to tell us which

patients need us the most

and which patients we need to be careful

of and we also need to know when those

invasive procedures are being done so

that we can be more useful when we put

on that red nose there is no difference

between rich or poor sick or healthy

doctor or patient everyone is the same

everyone is playing the same game

experiencing it all together so this

form of therapy actually humanizes the

hospital staff so you actually get to

look at them for the human beings that

they are and what is even more exciting

and really fascinating about this form

of therapy is that research has proven

that it reduces the amount of

painkillers and anesthesia needed for

certain procedures a few years ago in

Israel they conducted a study where

there were three groups of children one

group was not given any medicine the

second group was given benzodiazepines

to reduce the anxiety prior to surgery

and the third group were given two

Hospital clones to work with them for 30

minutes prior to surgery

the results were incredible the group

that had the hospital crowns matched the

group that had the medication so the

him.the implements are so amazing that

we probably don't even need to use

medicines and that kind of medicine

anymore and don't have to worry about

the side-effects and that is how

empowering this can be let me show you

exactly what I mean by that








who can be a hospital clown who are

there they are professionals we actually

come from backgrounds of theater music

dance magic magicians but we've also

gone through an intensive training to

follow the medical and safety protocols

when we so that when we do enter the

hospital we know exactly what we're

doing so sometimes this training can go

on for a few weeks months or even years

how can you even take me seriously when

I look like that okay pie made me make

it even better yeah so I am India's

first medical doctor who's a certified

medical clown so yeah so I do get taken

seriously at least half of the time but

what is really incredible about this is

that I've been on both sides I've seen

what happens and how it works but one of

the most important skills or things that

you need to be a hospital clown it

wasn't the medical degree I can assure

you that it was definitely my background

in theatre and the arts that helped me

but I think one of the most important

things that you need is empathy you need

to actually imagine what it would be

like being in those patients shoes

otherwise how would you know what they

are going through and what they would

like in what they would want the other

thing is to be able to adapt to be

sensitive to situations and improvise

because we have come in with a set you

know school of things that we want to do

but no two situations are alike and no

two patients are the same and last but

not the least

it's about being positive

can you imagine creating positivity out

of such a difficult atmosphere

environment that is probably the most

challenging part I was very skeptical

about if this kind of therapy would work

in India when we first started it in

2015 there were 13 of us that got

trained by a medical clown from New York

and when we went into the government

hospitals I was I was terrified thinking

that this was gonna fail so miserably

for five years down the line I can tell

you it works it can go to places where

medicine and doctors cannot and I think

it's high time don't you think that we

look at the mental health of a person

especially when you're going to be

spending so much time in a place that is

filled with this sort of negativity and

despair after our clowns and doctors are

essentially the same

we both want to elevate the possible and

to relieve the pain and suffering and I

believe very strongly that hospital

planning needs to be integrated into our

health care system where we can become

full-time employees where we can see the

patient right from the time they enter

the hospital through the procedures they

go through and then see them safely out

it doesn't have to be a traumatic

experience every single time you come to

a hospital after all laughter is and

will always be the best form of medicine

thank you