Many of you might be surprised to know the sorry state of mental health in India. Do you know that India is the world’s most depressed country? One in every seven Indians (nearly 20 crore people!) suffered mental health-related problems.
According to Indian governmental and non-governmental organizations, 10 percent of the population (roughly 11 crore people) requires professional and medicinal help, and 2 percent of the population (approximately two crore people) requires hospitalization. However, our country is not at all ready for it.
In 2019, there is only 0.3 psychiatrists [the USA has 10.54] and 0.07 psychologists [the USA has 29.86] for every 100,000 people. For instance, if we consider the state of Maharashtra as an example, there are only 345 psychiatrists and 55 psychologists! Aren’t you surprised yet? Then there is a sad surprise for you!
India spends just 33 paise on mental health sufferers in the whole year. The same amount Mukesh Ambani makes in 3 hours! (I’m sure you must have been surprised at least now).
How should India tackle the situation?
Mental health includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is vital at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
Recently, we have become so much aware of physical wellness. People diet, go to the gym, and they also wear fitness bands, etc. However, as far as mental health is concerned, we are not educated and well aware of it.
According to a recent study in a highly recognized journal, poor mental health causes depressive disorders and is associated with high suicide death rates. Further, depression is prevalent in older adults. And we should be worried about it as the Indian population is aging rapidly.
Our society and mental health?
It is not that mental illness is only an Indian societal problem. However, various social factors exist only in Indian society leading to mental illness.
Women’s position in Indian society and their mental health
According to an article in Lancet in 2020, depressive and anxiety disorders are observed more in Indian females than males. There are various reasons for it: gender discrimination, violence, sexual abuse, socio-cultural practices, etc.
We cannot deny the fact that women have always been considered secondary in Indian society. For instance, in most homes, you can find women eating left food after men finish their (there is a positive correlation between eating disorders and mental illness).
According to an article in 2019, National Family Health Survey data indicate that over 30% of Indian women have been physically, sexually, or emotionally abused by their husbands at some point in their lives. And 75 % of the domestic violence victims do not speak for themselves—no need to specify that domestic violence brings tremendous mental pressure leading to poor mental health.
Mental health issues in deprived castes
Indian society is culturally diverse. It gets admiration for ‘Integrity in diversity.’ However, caste discrimination is a sad truth.
According to an article in 2019, low-income communities (mostly overlapped with historically disadvantaged castes) face a 40 % higher rate of depression than the national average. The article suggests that students from lower castes often feel isolated and stressed due to caste-based discrimination on campus.
In May 2019, a medical student committed suicide because of harassment by high caste senior students.
Studies have shown that deprived castes face various difficulties such as deprived childhood experiences, lack of qualitative interaction for healthy cognitive and linguistic development, harsh and rigid self-evaluation, etc. These all lead to mental health aberrations. Nearly 90 percent of all the poor Indians and 95 percent of all the illiterate Indians are from deprived castes.
Lack of awareness and sensitivity to mental health
We have to be clear that if a person has a mental illness doesn’t make her/him a lunatic! The social stigma of a mental disorder is one reason people with mental illness remain silent. Because of the stigma associated with mental illness, people do not talk about it.
A study published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry in 2017 revealed that Indian people do not want to visit psychiatrists because they have a negative attitude towards them.
We often notice that people visit faith healers (Sadhu / Babas) before visiting a doctor because they do not want society to brand them with a psychiatric disorder.
What can we do as a society, and what is the role of government?
We, as a society, should collectively care for our colleagues. How often have we thought about the mental health of our watchman, maid, or driver? How easily do we believe that successful people cannot be mentally ill?
We have to clear our misconceptions. Being sensible to our near and dear ones is one thing we can do on our own.
In the year 2018, India spent only $650,000 on mental health. India has to spend more on this. As mentioned previously, the government has to step in and increase the number of health workers working on mental illness.
Mental health, just like physical health, is an essential aspect of our healthier life. According to WHO, “mental health and well-being are fundamental to quality of life, enabling people to experience life as meaningful, become creative and active citizens.”
How to ourselves during COVID-19?
We have been witnessing loneliness, and distant relations (both professional and personal) in the COVID-19 situation. It is evident from the fact that the helpline number by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) received nearly 300,000 calls related to distress and anxiety.
According to a European Forum related to public health, the following are five ways to take to balance our mental health:
#1 Beware of fake news and limit the news we read:
Often, false news related to the COVID-19 situation may bring unnecessary stress. It is always better to rely on government websites for COVID-19-related news rather than social media feed.
#2 Schedule your social media:
Continuous social media may be harmful to you in many ways. It may bring in anxiety, depression, and a feeling of isolation. Scheduling social media site visits may help in this case.
#3 Talk with the people:
You can talk to the people over calls. Catch up with those who have lost contact with them. Support them and also get support from them.
#4 Exercise and diet:
Our bodily activities have reduced a lot. Therefore, workouts at home are necessary. The diet must be full of nutritious food with plenty of water.
#5 Be positive :
According to the EPF, it is important to keep hope and faith for a better future.
I Hope you would have understood the urgency of mental health! Please write what you feel about it below