Importance of Mental Health Awareness in India


Understanding Mental Health Issues

“Without mental health there can be no true physical health” Dr. Broke Chisholm, first Director General of the World Health Organization in 1954


Over the years we have mastered and horned ourselves to improve our physical health but the topic of mental health is a taboo, a hush-hush issue to be perhaps, discussed in low undertones behind closed doors or to be avoided all together. So much so that people suffering from the said issues may take years or even a life time to just openly talk about it without feeling shame. How is that when our brain’s the one that’s ill (in terms of mental health) we are gifted with nothing but contempt and aversion, shunned by those around us that we contemplate whether to get help or not.

Mental disorders do not discriminate, it can affect anyone irrespective of gender, age, cast, wealth, race, creed and surprisingly, even species.

In India, 7.5% of the total population is suffering from some forms of mental disorders. Which has only increased in the past two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic with increasing level of anxiety, fear, isolation and emotional duress.

The recent lockdown also has put an enormous pressure on all of us to discuss about mental wellbeing as much as physical health.

A study conducted on ‘Mental health implications of COVID-19 pandemic and its response in India’ published in SAGE Public Health Emergency Collection.

Stated that the major reported issue during the lockdown was stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, denial, anger and fear. Kids and the elderly, frontline workers, people with pre-existing mental issues were most vulnerable.

The suicide rates have increased during Covid-19. Globally, measures have been taken to address mental health issues through the use of guidelines and intervention strategies. The role of social media has also been immense in this context. State-specific intervention strategies, tele psychiatry consultations, toll free number specific for psychological and behavioral issues have been issued by the Government of India-

Why is awareness about mental issues so important? 

One of the major reason is that people themselves might not be aware that they have an underlining mental illness. Unlike fever or cold, mental disorder manifests as behavioral changes and can be at times missed by people at large for instance depression is the most commonly miss judged illness.

Varied myths and superstitions that are constantly associated with mental illness such as, person suffering from mental illness is possessed by ghost. Such attitudes lead to not only improper treatment but also deterioration of the patient’s health. There are assumptions that children cannot show mental illness but contrary to popular believes studies have shown that mental disorders may have an early onset. 

Social stigmas lead to isolation and shunning of the patient who may be in dire need of help. These stigmas robs people from receiving normal education, job, marriage as well as medical services. Ignorance leads to social isolation and ridicule not only to the sufferer but also to their families. They are often subject to derogatory words with regards to their illnesses. They might be referred as crazy, stupid, slow, mentally disturbed and so on. The society perceives them to exhibit violent nature. 

The lack of awareness has affected the health industry as there is a massive shortage of psychiatrists and psychologists in the country as compared to the number of people suffering from mental health issues WHO states that in India, per 100,000 population there are 0.3 psychiatrists, 0.12 nurses, 0.07 psychologists and 0.07 social workers, while the desirable number is anything above 3 psychiatrists and psychologists per 100,000 population.    

We need mass awareness and open discussions on this topic just celebrating and having a day (October 10-World Mental Health Day) of the year set apart to create awareness does the bare minimum. People from all walks of life need to be sensitized about these issues and social media can play a major role in doing so. Since, they are the largest influencers globally so one can create self-help chat groups, help people get in touch with those in need and debunk stigmas associated with mental illness.