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

India, home to over 250 million adolescents aged 10-19 years, grapples with various mental health challenges among its youth, with depression emerging as a significant concern, writes Dr Roshan Yedery, Sector Lead, Healthcare, Villgro

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Blog: Unmasking India's Silent Epidemic Of Rising Depression Among Youth
Depression is a common mental disorder. Globally, an estimated 5% of adults suffer from depression, as per WHO

New Delhi: The year 2019, as per the World Health Organization (WHO), marked a global mental health crisis, affecting nearly one billion individuals, including 14 per cent of adolescents worldwide. Notably, childhood sexual abuse and bullying were identified as significant contributors to depression. Furthermore, pressing global challenges such as social inequalities, public health crises, conflicts, and the impending climate crisis represented substantial structural threats to mental well-being.

Also Read: World Mental Health Day 2023: Mental Health Is A Universal Human Right

India, home to over 250 million adolescents aged 10-19 years, grapples with various mental health challenges among its youth, with depression emerging as a significant concern. One in 20 Indians experiences depression, and nearly 15 per cent of Indian adults require active intervention to address one or more mental health issues. In 2012, it was estimated that India witnessed more than 258,000 suicides, with the age group of 15-49 years being the most affected.

This high rate of suicides hurts families emotionally and financially, as they lose a source of income. It also affects the government financially when compensation has to be paid. It is vital to grasp the root causes of depression among young Indians and offer necessary care. However, there are barriers like a shortage of qualified therapists, limited privacy within families, limited access to treatments, and societal stigma around seeking mental health care. To overcome this, the Parliament Standing Committee on Health & Family Welfare issued a report titled ‘Mental Health Care and Its Management in Contemporary Times’ this year in August, which emphasizes the imperative for heightened awareness and improved accessibility to mental health services, and addresses the shortage of mental health professionals.

Also Read: Tele-MANAS: 3.4 Lakh Calls Received Since Launch; 74.4 Per Cent Of Callers In 18-45 Age Group

To quickly combat the concerning surge in mental health disorders among young adults, the Indian government took proactive measures and launched the National Tele Mental Health program. It established 42 active Tele Manas centres across 31 states and Union Territories and manages more than 1,300 calls every day in 20 languages. This initiative is designed to integrate mental well-being into mainstream healthcare and improve the accessibility of mental health services for all.

The government’s proactive approach also extends to other national policies and programs indirectly impacting mental health, including the National Mental Health Programme (NMHP) and Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (National Adolescent Health Program).

NMHP encompasses diverse elements like life-skills training, counselling in educational institutions, workplace stress management, suicide prevention, and more. While the Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (National Adolescent Health Program) is tailored to address the unique mental health needs of young people. Its goals include promoting positive mental health, early detection, and timely intervention for mental health challenges within this demographic.

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

India’s thriving startup ecosystem also holds immense potential in addressing mental health issues that disproportionately affect young adults. In recent years, multitudes of startups have emerged, dedicated to pioneering innovative solutions in the field of mental health care and support. Evolve, a health-tech startup offers a secure virtual environment featuring interactive content grounded in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) principles to enhance users’ mental health. Startups like Iwill and Wysa employ artificial intelligence-based chatbots to assist with mental health management. Wysa, using evidence-based cognitive and behavioural techniques, guides users through small actions to promote well-being. Another noteworthy startup, YourDOST, provides a user-friendly interface and access to over 1000 wellness experts, offering a confidential space for sharing without judgment. It operates 24/7 to provide guidance and support.

Also Read: “Mental Health Matters”: Deepika Padukone After Dwayne Johnson Says He Didn’t Know What Depression Was

To help such startups navigate complex business landscapes, overcome financial challenges, and create impact at scale, initiatives like the Yash Entrepreneurs Program provide crucial support. It offers funding through USAID’s MOMENTUM, comprehensive guidance from seasoned business professionals and strategic partnerships through Villgro.

These platforms not only empower the management of mental wellness but also promote dialogues to break stigma and barriers.

As of today, depression remains a substantial challenge for India’s young adults. Yet, through efforts in public awareness, accessible healthcare, and proactive interventions, optimism exists for improved mental well-being. It is crucial for the government and civil society to sustain their collaborative efforts in addressing this urgent issue, creating a supportive environment for those with depression. The journey towards an emotionally resilient future demands collective compassion, understanding, and action. Together, we can forge a brighter, emotionally resilient future for India’s young adults.

Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.

Also Read: Himachal Pradesh Health Minister Dhani Ram Shandil Launches Mental Health Care Service

(This article has been authored by Dr Roshan Yedery, Sector Lead, Healthcare, Villgro)

Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of authors.

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which in its Season 10 is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Ayushmann Khurrana. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In a world post COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental well-being, self-care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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