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World Mental Health Day: Time to take mental wellbeing seriously in India

Updated October 10, 2020 18:12 IST
Representative Photo (IANS)

Today is the World Mental Health Day — a good occasion to spread a word about mental health awareness and breaking the stigma attached to it. Millions suffer from common mental conditions such as depression, stress, anxiety, loneliness, low self-esteem and substance abuse but only a few admit — or educate others on what it is really about — and continue to suffer in silence.

Unlike physical health, mental wellbeing is invisible. Looking after yourself and others, especially those who are struggling right now in the extremely trying times of Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns, is as important as any other thing in your life.

It is said that one in four people suffers from mental health issues. Great if you aren’t the one but that is not where it should end. Not really. Look around and if you find the affected one, help them to get through the tough times. They never last forever. As someone said, a little consideration, a little thought for others makes the difference.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), close to one billion people globally have a mental disorder and those with severe mental disorders tend to die 10-20 years earlier than the general population. Suicide is claiming the lives of close to 800,000 people every year—one person every 40 seconds—and is the second leading cause of death for young people aged 15-29 years. Relatively few people around the world have access to quality mental health services, especially in low- and middle-income countries where more than 75 per cent of people with mental, neurological and substance use disorders receive no treatment for their condition at all.

Mental disorders are among the leading causes of non-fatal disease burden in India

Yet, the magnitude of the mental health burden faced around the world is not being matched by the investment it requires. Countries spend on average only two per cent of their health budgets on mental health. International development assistance for mental health has never exceeded one per cent of all development assistance for health.

“Our world wasn’t set up to respond to the growing mental health needs before Covid-19, and it certainly isn’t now. That’s why now more than ever we need the world to move for mental health, and as individuals, communities, businesses, governments and funders we must prioritize action on, and investment in mental health,” says Elisha London, CEO and Founder of United for Global Mental Health.

A study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Indian Council of Medical Research which was published in world’s leading medical journal The Lancet last year, said that mental disorders are among the leading causes of non-fatal disease burden in India. ‘The burden of mental disorders across the states of India: the Global Burden of Disease Study 1990–2017’ found out that one in seven Indians were affected by mental disorders of varying severity in 2017. “The proportional contribution of mental disorders to the total disease burden in India has almost doubled since 1990,” it said.

Serious discussions about mental health did happen for some days after the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput in June, earlier this year

Till four years ago, in the last major study done in the region, India had the highest suicide rate in Asia. Serious discussions about mental health did happen for some days after the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput in June, earlier this year but, as we all know, the case has taken several twists and turns with the trauma talk being conveniently swept under the carpet. There are others from the same fraternity like Hrithik Roshan and Deepika Padukone, who’ve opened up on mental health issues but their fans, trolls and the general public rarely focused on the real problems.

No wonder then that awareness about mental health issues remains negligent largely in India even after the enactment of the Mental Health Care Act, 2017.

“We must remember that the treatment gap for mental healthcare is quite alarming in our country. Despite all our efforts, out of every 100 people, 75-80 individuals who need mental healthcare are not getting it. From pregnant mothers to young children, adults, elderly, men, women, people from all kinds of socio-economic strata, everybody needs to be provided mental healthcare,” Dr. Pratima Murthy, Professor of Psychiatry, the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), said in a message on the World Mental Health Day today.

The world ‘isolation’ may have assumed a completely new significance in 2020 but legendary Greek philosopher Aristotle’s statement ‘Man is a social animal’ still holds very much true. So take care of your own emotional wellbeing, support someone else and always appreciate those who don’t give up on you. Mental health is nothing to be ashamed of, neither is talking about it.

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