Mental Health Matters: Are We Still Living in Denial About Our Mental Health?

  • 9 Oct 2021

Mental Health is of utmost concern in India as we are all aware that living in India could be taxing. From getting admissions to institutions, commuting to any place, surviving the roads and the unpredictable rains, it could be incredibly challenging to live an everyday life here. Normal life could be so strenuous that frustration, anger, sadness, worry, disappointment, and anxiety are just part of life. Yet, talking about mental health awareness is considered taboo in India.

However, in the past few years, the discussion about mental health has become more mainstream, with people talking more candidly about their battles. But, this is not enough! Everyone should feel free to express their minds and be aware of mental health. In India, having a mental health disorder is perceived with a sense of judgement, and there is a stigma associated with those having mental health issues. Many feel that talking about these problems makes you vulnerable or misfit or ‘loser making excuses’. Therefore, it is not important if it is not related to the heart, lungs, livers, or any physically appearing part of your body. 

Mental disorders are also thought to result from a lack of self-discipline and will. This stigma associated with mental wellbeing and lack of accessibility, affordability, and cognition leads to significant gaps in treatment.

India was already a hub for deep mental health concerns from pre-Covid-19 times. Data shows that one in seven Indians has a mental disorder of differing intensity, accounting for almost one-quarter of global suicide deaths.

The current crisis, which India was unprepared for, has doubtlessly altered life routines and forced changes resulting in severe psychological and mental health crises among Indians. In addition, the economic stress has made the mental health crises cases shoot up further.

Mental health disorders disproportionately affect lower-income families with less education and lower employment. These vulnerable people are exposed to financial constraints and restrictions due to their socioeconomic conditions, worsened by the limited resources available for medicine and cure. Lack of services and support by the authorities and insurance coverage results in maximum expenses on treatment – not affordable to many out of their pockets, thus worsening the economic pressure on the poor and vulnerable. 

Lack of relevant strategies to control the virus, lockdowns, loss of work, homelessness, overflowing patients in the hospitals, closed educational institutions, and such disruptions have had a huge impact on our country.

The effects of these disruptions have resulted in family conflicts, social relationships, work-life, education, etc., which have made a huge effect on the mental health of Indians. As this crisis has made a national resonance, is this the right time to discuss the broader issues around mental health?

Everyone gets upset, feels low and anxious at least at some point in their life. But, if these feelings become intense and don’t go away, affecting your everyday life, it becomes a disorder.

The majority of Indians face a strong adverse impact of the pandemic on their mental health. The prevalence of depression and anxiety disorders and eating disorders is significantly higher among women. The same is the association between depression and death by suicide. Medication is one of the alternatives to treat your mental health. Therapy, which involves a trained therapist changing how you think or approach life, may also help. Sometimes, therapy and/or medication could be given under medical supervision.

Notable progress has been made to promote, raise and increase awareness about mental health and strengthen mental health services in our country.

  • Cognitive interventions in the workplace to promote mental wellness and prevention are implemented.
  • national helpline has been set up to support mental health concerns among Indians.
  • Bridging the gap of access to physical services by promoting telemedicine and telepsychiatry.

Recognizing and understanding the extent of this issue would be the first step towards addressing the mental health crisis in the nation. The following and most appropriate step – considering the socioeconomic groups largely affected by the crisis would be to take the initiative towards making mental healthcare more accessible, with targeted interventions for vulnerable groups.

Project Global Cure is working towards the need of the hour to impart knowledge to the general public on the importance of discussing mental health and laying down the structured systems in place. Destigmatizing mental health so that people can talk about it openly, setting up measures to help individuals cope with the psychological fallout is of utmost importance. These include awareness programs in the media and word-of-mouth to advocate time-tested measures to promote mental wellness like mindfulness, deep breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga.

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