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Of sound mind and well-being


Government should make sure that people with mental illnesses live with dignity and get access to the services they require

The World Health Organization (WHO) characterises health as "a condition of complete physical, mental, and social well-being" and not just the absence of disease or infirmity.

Being mentally sound means one possesses a balanced mind, confidence and self-esteem. Mentally ill individuals face multiple issues with their thinking patterns and how they look at things and react to a situation. Various factors affect our mental wellness such as working conditions and living standards. Treatment and cure for mental illnesses are of utmost importance, and overlooking them can escalate the issue.

Mental health forms an integral part of the overall health and well-being of people; however, today, especially in India, mental health institutions are without adequate resources and staff.

Unfortunately, mental health in India has never been given any significance before. It is estimated that the economic loss due to mental illnesses would be around $1.03 trillion (of 2010 dollars) from 2012 to 2030. The mental health workforce in India is extremely low — there are 0.3 psychiatrists, 0.12 nurses, 0.07 psychologists, and 0.07 social workers per 100,000 population (Mental Health in India, WHO). These figures are alarming. It is exacerbated by the fact that people in many cases are not even ready to acknowledge mental health issues. They are under constant pressure to act normal when encountering a great deal of pressure and melancholy. This is creating a huge disparity in what is inside someone and how are they being in front of others.

A study reported by WHO says that at least 6.5% of the Indian population suffers from some form of serious mental disorder, with no discernible rural-urban differences. Mental illnesses constitute one-sixth of all health-related disorders and India accounted for nearly 15% of the global mental, neurological and substance abuse disorder burden. The treatment gap, which is defined as the prevalence of mental illnesses and the proportion of patients that get treatment, is over 70%. The WHO predicts that by 2020, roughly 20% of Indians will suffer from mental illnesses. And to cater to this demographic, we have fewer than 4,000 mental health professionals.

As per the Human Rights Watch, only 0.06% of India’s health budget is devoted to mental health and available data suggest that state spending in this regard is abysmal. Time and again, the government has only made hollow promises and the data mentioned above do not paint a rosy picture. If only India spent a sufficient amount on primary-level care of the mentally ill, the number of deaths caused by ignorance would reduce drastically.

In our nation, the discovery of mental illness is often followed by denial and failure to seek help. Despite its enormous social burden, mental health remains a taboo subject that is susceptible to age-old stigmas, prejudices and fears. Not only do we need to foster awareness of mental health actively but also create awareness of the absurdity of the stigmas attached to mental health, to eradicate them.

To improve one’s mental health, everyone needs to get involved. Yoga and meditation originated in India. We can practise both to bring out the best in us. Schools, colleges and companies can partner with psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, anthropologists and NGOs for conducting mental health sessions, workshops and programmes.

We all must learn to identify the red-flag signs of mental health concerns in ourselves and others. On top of that, organisations can partner with psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, anthropologists and NGOs for conducting mental health awareness sessions. This way, a large pool of people can get mental health services. Also, the government should make sure that people suffering from mental health issues aren’t ignored but must grow as individuals, leading lives with dignity and get access to all the services they require.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2020 11:33:15 AM |

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