“There is no health without mental health.” - WHO
When I started writing this article I was compelled to bring in a more positive outlook about mental health in India. But when I sat down to do my research all my enthusiasm went down the drain. After hours of searching, trying to find at least some facts that put a positive light on acceptance, growth or development in the field of mental health in our country, all I could find was this -
150 million people in our country require mental health assistance out of which only 30 million people seek professional support. - NIMHANS, 2016
Per 100,000 populations we only have 0.75 Psychiatrists, whereas the desired number is above 3. - WHO, 2015
The amount set aside for NMHP (National Mental Health Programme) is just Rs 40 crore. - TheHindu, FY2020
An estimated economic loss of more than $1.03 trillion to be engendered by mental health crises to our economy between 2012-2030. - WHO
These numbers are the unfiltered truth of the state of mental health in India. Given the present era of Covid-19, we need more resources to meet the needs. These facts only depict the lack at a central level. What about the factors influencing mental health at an individual level? Whenever I hear, see or say ‘mental health’ the words that immediately come to my mind are ‘stigma’ and ‘lack of awareness’. The lack of awareness and stigma associated with mental health is a hidden pandemic in itself.
In the year 2017, Ram Nath Kovind, the president of India said “India does not simply have a mental health challenge... it is facing a possible mental health epidemic”. - Hindustan Times
Steps that can be taken at an individual level to spread awareness and silence the stigma -
1. Acknowledgement - Learning and reading on mental health topics. Knowledge is a straight path towards acceptance.
2. Support - Negative attitude towards mental illness is rooted in us and our culture. This negative view and false judgement can discourage the ones around us to come out and seek assistance. If you know someone who is struggling, provide them with valuable information and support them in reaching out.
3. Stop using mental illness as adjectives and insults - When terms associated with mental illness are used as adjectives or worse as an insult it only increases the stigma associated with it.
Adjectives - “She is just obsessed with cleanliness.” “I am depressed bro.”
Insults - “Stop acting like a maniac!” “Are you psychotic?”
These are serious mental health issues, using them to get back at someone is disrespectful towards the people who are actually struggling every day and discourage people to open up and seek support.
4. Open talk - We still fear talking about mental health openly. It’s either avoided or done behind closed doors. Encourage talking openly about mental health in families and friends. This open talk can be a little difficult at the beginning, find ways of making people around you understand the importance of seeking professional assistance.
The Pandemic has forced us to start making our mental health a priority. Many individuals including famous celebrities and sportspersons in recent times have opened up about their struggles with mental health and the importance of seeking professional assistance.
Mental health care for all: let’s make it a reality - WHO
Today various mental health platforms are providing varied mental health services both online and offline. Find the one that best suits your needs.
You can find more than 40 experts providing assistance in various areas of mental health at ManoShala. Some of these services include mindfulness, expressive arts, mandala art and yoga, counselling and clinical assistance.
Muskan Gupta, Psychologist, ManoShala