In an endeavour to create awareness among people about mental health issues like depression, anxiety and other mental illness, World Mental Health Day is observed across the globe on October 10. At a time when COVID-19 has brought whole world to its knees because of nosediving economy—millions lost their loved ones and struggling to sustain the tough time, the mental health issues hold huge significance.
According to WHO’s recent report, India is the most depressed country in the world. The report suggests that one in seven people from India have suffered from mental illness such as depression and anxiety from 1990 and 2017. This year the theme of the World Mental Health day is “Greater Investment – Greater Access.”
In 1992, the day was observed for the first time at the initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health.
The day is celebrated to underline the importance of mental health along with physical health as former is perceived like a social stigma or taboo among a section of our society. It has been seen that some people having issues of depression, anxiety, anger don’t consider them as serious issues. They neither like to talk about them or seek medical help for the same.
Here are some viewpoints by our experts on the relevance of the day:
Prakriti Poddar, Director Poddar Wellness Ltd opines: “Over the years, I have had the chance to talk about the subject of mental health at length with my peers in the industry. One factor that invariably underscores all our discussions is the shortage of funding in mental health. We cannot expect to make headway in spreading awareness about mental health problems when the budgetary allocation for mental health is just 0.05 percent of the total healthcare budget. In a country with a population of over 12 billion, over 5 crore people suffer from some form of mental disorder. With just one psychiatrist for over 13000 people, most mental health professionals shoulder an excess case load without any institutional support.”
“The pandemic and the ensuing uncertainty and economic instability have not only led to a spike in the number of mental health cases across the country, but also exposed the inadequacy of our healthcare system’s crisis-readiness in tackling a surge in mental health cases. If we do not address the problem now, we are looking at a mental health epidemic down the road, one we are woefully under equipped to fight. Unless there’s an investment push and government backed awareness programs to destigmatize mental health problems, people are not going to come out and talk about it in the open. We also need to sanction more psychiatry seats in government colleges to promote psychiatry as a serious discipline at the undergraduate level. Building a robust telecommunication network and increasing access to virtual consultations will help increase access to mental health services in areas with a shortage of trained professionals,” Poddar adds.
Dr Jalpa P. Bhuta, Consultant Psychiatrist, Global, Hinduja Khar and Surya Hospitals, & a Patron of SeekMed highlights social stigma attached with the mental health issue. He says: “It is unfortunate that the stigma to approaching a mental health professional still exists. Having a mental illness is similar akin to being diseased and hidden from others. Family members go to great lengths to keep it hidden. They would rather go to faith healers or God men, rather than being seen going to a psychiatrist. Presently anyone who is a life coach, call themselves as counselors and start consulting people. This is a dangerous trend. Mild mental illness can be helped by talking treatments, motivational coaches, spiritual gurus.”
“However moderate and severe mental illnesses would need medications given by a qualified psychiatrist with adequate supervision and regular follow up. Unless people recognize this fact, it is doomsday for all. There should be more awareness created amongst people. Government backed campaigns should be mandatory. De-stigmatization is a necessity which the media should promote. We all need a mentally healthy and happy Society.”
Pretty Tyagi, Nutritionist, LeadHealth Coach, and Founder MY22BMI, highlight how COVID-19 has led to depression and stress among people. She said: “The past months have brought many challenges: for health-care workers, providing care in difficult circumstances, going to work fearful of bringing COVID-19 home with them; for students, adapting to taking classes from home, with little contact with teachers and friends, and anxious about their futures; for workers whose livelihoods are threatened; for the vast number of people caught in poverty or in fragile humanitarian settings with extremely limited protection from COVID-19; and for people with mental health conditions, many experiencing even greater social isolation than before.”
“And this is to say nothing of managing the grief of losing a loved one, sometimes without being able to say goodbye. The economic consequences of the pandemic are already being felt, as corporates are cutting costs and employees losing jobs, and independent businesses suffering big time,” she adds.
Dr. Anil Sharma, Clinical Director at Mom’s Belief, believes: “Mental Health should be a priority throughout one’s lifetime since it comprises of emotional, psychological and social well-being. Our mental well-being dictates our thinking, outlook and response to the outside world. However, the outbreak of Covid-19 has shed new light on mental health and its relevance today. Covid-19 put over 169 nations across the globe under strict isolation, quarantine, and lockdowns – disrupting day-to-day activities while people incurred huge economic losses.”
“Humans are social beings, we thrive based on our interpersonal contact and social activities, hence, the ‘new normal’ has led to rise of serious psychological problems and suicides. Therefore, its only in the times of these stressful situations, the mental health awareness can play a crucial role. People have become more aware about their physical hygiene and it is necessary that they also learn about proper mental hygiene. With routine personal healthcare becoming less accessible in the current circumstances, tele-medicine and digital consultation are to become more mainstream in the years to come,” he said.