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80 Per Cent Indians With Mental Health Issues Don’t Seek Treatment: Experts

There is a lack of awareness and understanding among people about mental health issues. So the condition often goes undiagnosed, Dr Nand Kumar, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at AIIMS said.

80 Per Cent Indians With Mental Health Issues Don't Seek Treatment, Say Doctors
Many youths suffer from adolescent depression, substance abuse, anxiety, insomnia, dependence on digital devices and other addictions which at times lead to suicide

New Delhi: Eighty per cent of Indians with mental health issues do not seek treatment, doctors have said and cited lack of awareness, neglect and stigma as the reasons for this. They stressed that awareness about physical as well as mental health should be an integral part of the education system to understand the broad spectrum of psychological issues and seek help in time. There is a lack of awareness and understanding among people about mental health issues. So the condition often goes undiagnosed, Dr Nand Kumar, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at AIIMS said on the occasion of World Mental Health Day. He said,

Unless one realises that he or she is unwell or sick, how would they seek treatment? Often there is a huge gap between the time when symptoms are identified and treatment is initiated, thus aggravating the complexities.

Also Read: World Mental Health Day 2023: “There Is No Health Without Mental Health”, Says Dr Pratima Murthy 

Mental health problems have a broad spectrum, ranging from insomnia, mild anxiety, and depression to severe mood disorders, obsession and psychosis, making it difficult for the patient to realise the exact problem or even identify if there is any, Dr Kumar stated. He said,

Youths for a large chunk of people with mental health problems that often get wrongly identified as adolescent issues and are neglected.

On the occasion of World Mental Health Day, Dr Pratima Murthy, Director and Senior Professor of Psychiatry at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), said,

There is no health without mental health. Therefore, we need to understand that mental health does not just mean the absence of mental illness or disorder. Just like good physical health, we must talk about good mental health.

Talking about India’s status, Dr Murthy added,

Nearly 200 million people had mental disorders in India, according to The Lancet report published in 2019. Sharing the ‘alarming’ burden of mental illness. About 15 percent of the global disease burden is due to mental illness. In India, somewhere between one in seven and one in 10 people have some kind of diagnosable mental disorder.

Moreover, the fear of being labelled as mentally ill and the resultant discrimination often dissuade people from seeking treatment in the country, she added.

Also Read: Blog: Unmasking India’s Silent Epidemic Of Rising Depression Among Youth

Srishti Asthana, a psychologist, highlighted that the ones who come to terms with accepting that they are dealing with mental health issues, the cost factor and the protracted time involved in the therapy prevent them from seeking help.

Ms Asthana who was the chief coordinator of the mental health festival organised recently by Mental Health Foundation (India) along with AIIMS-Delhi and Deepak Chopra Foundation, USA, said,

The treatment at the private sector burns a hole in the pocket of the patient. The government hospitals have nominal expenditure, but there is a lot of rush and people do not want to go through that inconvenience. Hence, people who can afford, opt for private sector facilities, and others are left at bay from the sides.

Another stumbling block in addressing mental health issues is the lack of availability of professionals.

The number of psychiatrists has increased from 6,000 in 2016 to 9,000 in 2023. Simultaneously the number of psychologists has also increased. But the magnitude of mental health problems has also increased, Dr Kumar said.

As per NCRB data, the number of suicides has spiked from around 1.3 lakh in 2016 to 1.64 lakh in 2021, he said.

Mental health issues, particularly professional burnout, are not uncommon among doctors. According to a recent study, approximately 80 per cent of medical professionals in big hospitals have varying degrees of burnout, including depression, which may also lead to suicide in some cases.

Ms Asthana said the issue of suicides, being reported more among students, might not get addressed just by increasing the number of psychologists and psychiatrists alone. Other measures such as promotion of social cohesion, enhanced physical and mental activity, and cultural integration may be important factors to enhance resilience, she said.

Also Read: Social Media Could Harm Youth Mental Health, U.S. Surgeon General Warns

Many youths suffer from adolescent depression, substance abuse, anxiety, insomnia, dependence on digital devices and other addictions which at times lead to suicide.

We frequently see reports of suicides from Kota, a coaching hub for competitive exams, IITs, IIMs and medical institutes. We need to have in place a comprehensive programme which focuses on creating awareness about mental health problems and ailments and how to prevent them.

Mental health cannot be separated from physical health and cannot be dealt with in silos. Both are interconnected, Dr Nand Kumar said and emphasised the need for developing a programme for raising awareness about the mind and body at school and college levels that can lead to early detection of mental health issues.

Discussions regarding comprehensive health are required so that children and teachers are sensitised. Teachers need to be trained to be able to detect and understand issues cropping up among students. There is a need for integration of health and education to address the issues of mental health problems.

Also Read: School Wellness Team, Identifying Vulnerable Students: Education Ministry’s Guidelines On Suicide Prevention

(With inputs from PTI) 

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Hemant Srivastava

    October 12, 2023 at 10:52 am

    In my opinion, those who regularly communicate with parents, especially mother, never need a therapist.

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