Lack of awareness and limited access to professional help has made the state of mental health in India quite adverse. While issues of sanitation, primary and tertiary healthcare, and health advocacy is already a concern in India, mental health condition is added among all the preexisting difficulties. This has led to a steep rise in mental disorders, a new report on mental health released by Lancet Commission says, "80 per cent of people with any form of mental disorder in India, go undetected and untreated." Not surprisingly, the majority chunk to be afflicted - the youth.
Youth at stake
India is home to an estimated 57 million people (18 per cent of the global estimate) who are affected by depression as per World Health Organization (WHO). This includes a major proportion of youth facing poor mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse disorders.
The present-day youth is at a saturated space, where macro and micro awareness has become both the boon and bane. While the onset of social media has come forth with an outlet to liberate young minds, an entrapment of sorts has taken place, as well. Here, the concept of ‘FOMO’ (fear of missing out) has to lead to a 24x7 online presence amongst youth, while cutting back on the real-time conversations and connections. Instant gratification, paired up with the hunger to over-achieve has created a toxic concoction of sorts, handicapping the ability to deal with stress on a healthy medium. Finally, the concept of family has disintegrated to the greatest extent, where the youth often is found alone to fend for himself, without the comfort of someone to guide him/her through this tempest.
Ignorance, the root cause
According to a study conducted amongst 916 college students, only about a third (29.04 per cent) of the group clearly identified depression and a marginal 1.31 per cent identified schizophrenia. Another report commissioned by The Live Love Laugh Foundation indicated that 47 per cent people indicating a judgemental behaviour against those perceived of being mentally ill, with 26 per cent indicating fear of the same. Around 60 per cent attribute the causes of mental illness to lack of discipline and will power, while an equal percentage share the belief of limited interaction and co-existence between mentally unhealthy and healthy people.
Prioritising mental health
Focus on mental health is of utmost importance as constant stress leads to a variety of disorders, including various non-communicable diseases such as hypertension and Ischemic heart disease amongst the younger generation. The productivity of a nation relies on the stability of its young minds and with the present shaky structure; a constructive approach towards collective growth is difficult.
Dire need of education
A step-by-step change and active participation of multiple stakeholders are the need of the hour to increase awareness towards those who are fighting mental health issues. People seldom have an understanding of how to deal with these victims as there are no tried and tested solutions. However, there is still a lot that people can do:
1. Legislature: We got our first National Mental Health Policy in 2015, but there are many areas which need to be upgraded. The policy should have more participation from other stakeholders, mandating provisions for mental health awareness and education right from Panchayati level in villages to district levels in cities.
2. Community: The change has to be from the grassroots level. Your community, RWA, society, or block should have mass engagement mental health awareness campaigns so that people can be sensitised about it.
3. Educational Institutions: As we mostly have nuclear families, children at home hardly get any adult supervision and here comes the role of our education system. They need to make a robust echo chamber for the students of schools/college. Even the curriculum should include mental health-related education and the institutions should also have affable counsellors to address the child’s mental health issues.
4. Skill-India: There has always been an acute shortage of trained workforce in mental health space. According to the World Health Organization, it is estimated that India has 0.3, 0.12, 0.07, and 0.07 psychiatrists, nurses, psychologists and social workers respectively, for every lakh population.
Other conclusive steps
Awareness is just a stepping stone towards solving the issue, as the main onus lies in reaching out for help. Despite all efforts, mental illness is still viewed in a derogatory light, with the youth reluctant to reach out. In comes the role of a counsellor, on both institutional levels as well as personal. Counsellors are a great asset in upholding the mental fabric of the society, creating awareness among the youngsters to approach help at the early stages of any mental disorder. Presence of counsellors de-stigmatises the act of seeking help and in turn, can be the solution that India needs to fight mental health issues.
The article courtesy goes to Dr Prakriti Poddar, Mental Health expert, HR, Corporate and Education upliftment, Managing Trustee of the Poddar Foundation and Director Poddar Wellness Ltd.