Mental illnesses and disorders plague a majority of our population, and yet the efforts to create awareness about them are minimal. India’s unofficial list of societal ‘taboos’ is endless and mental health is definitely amongst the top ten. Many of us, including myself, have grown up watching our family members struggle with depression or anxiety, but our lack of awareness along with the insensitivity in the kind of language we use has always made it difficult for us to reach out for help – whether for ourselves or someone else. While depression and anxiety related illnesses are still relatively more commonly discussed, others like Personality Disorders and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder often don’t even exist in the realm of most conversations.
However, to be able to completely fathom the extent to which mental and behavioural disorders affect our day to day life, it is important to step back and understand how these disorders affect people not just in our country, but all over the world. According to a report published by India Today in October of 2018, almost 300 million worldwide suffer from depression. But what’s scarier than the numbers is the fact that mental disorders, if ignored for too long, can also lead to deaths. The article sheds light on how mental health conditions not only increase an individual’s vulnerability towards external factors but also severely affect their lifestyle in the long-run. In fact, according to a study conducted by World Health Organisation, India tops the list of most depressed countries in the world, followed by China and the USA.
In the study, conducted for the National Care Of Medical Health (NCMH), it is estimated that at least 6.5% of India’s total population is suffering from some form of a mental disorder, with no discernible rural-urban differences.” But these figures only seem to get more fatal. According to India Today, “The average suicide rate in India is 10.9 for every lakh people and the majority of people who commit suicide are below 44 years of age.”
If anything, these statistics are a matter of great concern but also an opportunity for mental health practitioners and organisations to step up. As of 2014, the ratio of mental health workers to the population was just 1 in 1,00,000 people. Despite it being mandatory for state governments to provide affordable mental healthcare for all, under the Mental Healthcare Bill, the cost of treatment continues to remain high, and therefore inadmissible to a large section of the society.
While we do have many mental health workers in the form of psychologists, psychiatrists and doctors, there is still much stigma attached to the act of making use of such facilities – the ‘log kya kahenge’, what will people say, is deeply ingrained in our psyche. Having said that, one can’t help but deny that India is witnessing change in the form of many organisations like Tatva who are tackling mental health in their own unique ways. In fact, innovative approaches to therapy are slowly becoming mainstream. And so is the idea of overcoming the taboo that comes with talking about it.
You can read the entire report by India Today here.
Representational feature photograph by Stuart Freedman from the series ‘Shadow People’
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