According to a report by the WHO, more than 25 percent increase in mental depression and anxiety was registered in the first year due to the covid-19 pandemic.
According to the World Mental Health Report, nearly one billion people, of whom 14 percent were adolescents, were living with some form of mental health issue in 2019.
What is Mental Illness?
Mental health is not just a concept that refers to an individual’s psychological and emotional well-being.
Rather it’s a state of psychological and emotional well-being where an individual is able to use their cognitive and emotional capabilities, to meet the ordinary demand and functions in society.
According to WHO, there is no single ‘official’ definition of mental health.
The social determinants of health predispose individuals and populations to poor physical and mental health, and increased risk for many physical and mental illnesses.
Mental Illness in India
Mental disorders are now among the top leading causes of health burden worldwide, with no evidence of global reduction since 1990.
In 2017, an estimation of the burden of mental health conditions for the states across India revealed that as many as 197.3 million people required care for mental health conditions.
This included around 45.7 million people with depressive disorders and 44.9 million people with anxiety disorders.
The situation has been exacerbated due to the Covid-19 pandemic, making it a serious concern the world over.
Reasons for Persistence of Mental Illness
Stigma to seek help: The staggering figures are void of millions of others directly, or indirectly impacted by the challenge and those who face deep-rooted stigma, many times rendering them unable to seek help.
Lack of awareness: This growing challenge in dealing with mental health issues is further compounded by a lack of information and awareness, self-diagnosis, and stigma.
Psycho-social factors: Institutions like gender, race and ethnicity, are also responsible for mental health conditions.
Post-Treatment gap: There is a need for proper rehabilitation of the mentally ill persons post/her treatment which is currently not present.
Rise in Severity: Mental health problems tend to increase during economic downturns, therefore special attention is needed during times of economic distress.
Need for immediate intervention
Neglected Area: Mental health which forms the core of our personhood is often neglected which impeded the development of an individual to full potential.
Disproportionate impact: It is the poor, dispossessed and marginalised who bear the greatest burden of mental health problems, but historically their sufferings are dismissed as a natural extension of their social and economic conditions.
Vulnerability of the ills: Mentally ill patients are vulnerable to and usually suffer from drug abuse, wrongful confinement, even at homes and mental healthcare facilities which is a cause of concern and a gross human right violation.
Suicidal tendencies: Suicidal behavior was found to have relation with female gender, working condition, independent decision making, premarital sex, physical abuse and sexual abuse.
Gendered nature: Females are more predisposed to mental disorders due to rapid social change, gender discrimination, social exclusion, gender disadvantage like marrying at young age, concern about the husband’s substance misuse habits, and domestic violence.
National Mental Health Program (NMHP): To address the huge burden of mental disorders and shortage of qualified professionals in the field of mental health, the government has been implementing the NMHP since 1982.
Mental HealthCare Act 2017: It guarantees every affected person access to mental healthcare and treatment from services run or funded by the government.
Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2017: The Act acknowledges mental illness as a disability and seeks to enhance the Rights and Entitlements of the Disabled and provide an effective mechanism for ensuring their empowerment and inclusion in the society
Manodarpan Initiative: An initiative under Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan aims to provide psycho-social support to students for their mental health and well-being.
Policy boost: Mental health situation in India demands active policy interventions and resource allocation by the government.
Public sensitization: To reduce the stigma around mental health, we need measures to train and sensitize the community/society.
Awareness: People should be made aware of the significance of mental health, as much as that of physical health.
Destigmatising: Sharing one’s story about mental health (through media campaigns) is the most effective strategy to reduce stigma attached with mental illness
Community Approach: There is need to deploy community health workers who, with appropriate training and supervision, effectively deliver psychosocial interventions for the needy
Broadening the scope: Mental health care must embrace the diversity of experiences and strategies which work, well beyond the narrow confines of traditional biomedicine with its emphasis on “doctors, diagnoses and drugs”.