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India Delegation Speaks On Mental Health At The Grand Challenges Annual Meeting 2022

The increasing pressures on mental health are debilitating and require a multidisciplinary, multi-stakeholder approach to propel attention towards a more holistic model of care and support

India Delegation Speaks On Mental Health At The Grand Challenges Annual Meeting 2022
India has witnessed a surge in youth suicides during the last two years during the COVID-19 pandemic

Brussels: The Policymaker’s Forum for Mental Health, India spearheaded a panel discussion at the Grand Challenges Annual Meeting on October 25, 2022, in Brussels, to discuss the challenges around mental health, especially impacting the most vulnerable in India. The discussion was organized in collaboration with Grand Challenges Canada and ETI Services to support the launch of a new and innovative mental initiative focused on young people.

India has witnessed a surge in youth suicides during the last two years during the COVID-19 pandemic. The increasing pressures on mental health are debilitating and require a multidisciplinary, multi-stakeholder approach to propel attention towards a more holistic model of care and support. For addressing this, policymakers, experts and people with lived experiences have come together to identify the gaps in mental healthcare in India and how the present structures can be modified to address the same.

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Dr Dalbir Singh, Founder and President, Policymaker’s Forum for Mental Health chaired the panel. He highlighted that,

There are various dimensions of this societal malaise and reiterated that there is radical need for paradigm shift in existential biomedical approach, comprehensive and pragmatic government strategies, vibrant health literacy, engaged media & local communities, in collaboration with the local Governments & civil society, responsive corporate sector and innovative technologies besides targeted interventions for the most vulnerable. Aggressive advocacy by the policymakers and elected representatives backed by strong political will play vital role in promoting level of discourse and awareness besides building synergy and intersectoral coordination between diverse stakeholders.

Bhubaneshwar Kalita, MP and member, Policymaker’s Forum for Mental Health, in his address spoke about the burden of mental health issues falling inordinately on women and young girls. He explained,

There are major crises in accessibility, for the female populations, that plague all processes of healthcare (in general)–from diagnosis to treatment. This is exacerbated by the information asymmetry that affects women much more as they still struggle to get educated, and claim their space in the most crucial aspects of public service delivery. If the existing institutions are strengthened and envelop mental health services into their ambit, we can imagine a structural change looking into the future.

Also Read: Stress, Anxiety, Depression, Behavioral Problems On The Rise In Children: Expert

Vincent Pala, also an MP and member, Policymaker’s Forum for Mental Health, focused his responses on suicide among the youth in India. He started by highlighting why there is a need to rethink policy around mental health, and how “family issues” and “illness”, and not unemployment or bankruptcy, form the major reasons for suicide in the population between the age group of 18-30 years.

He also took the point of familial spaces not necessarily being safe, as has been imagined for years, by bringing to everyone’s knowledge that housewives tallied more than half of all female victims of suicide, and linked it to the increased cases of reported violence against women at home during COVID-19. Describing how suicides are culturally perceived in India, Mr. Pala had an interesting take,

The stigma associated with suicide is linguistically governed by the popular media and this more often than not leads to underreporting.

Dr Rajdeep Roy, MP and member, Policymaker’s Forum for Mental Health as well as the Member of the Standing Committee or Health and Family Welfare, gave the context of the Mental Healthcare Act, which came in effect in 2017, by suggesting that this was a watershed moment in the history of mental health services in India, as the nature of this act is very progressive by “Initiating the establishment of a central and state authority, and by decriminalising suicide and prohibiting electroconvulsive therapy- the elements of confidentiality, quality healthcare, and rehabilitation enable the act to become a precedent for other nations,” he added.

Also Read: Doctors Call To Remove Stigma Associated With Mental Illness

Dr Shirshendu Mukherjee, Mission Director, BIRAC, India, stated how “India’s biotechnology industry’s role during COVID-19 has been praised by the nation. It makes one look at the necessity for the physical distress caused in crisis to be averted in order to keep the mental health of the population in check. What it disables are risk factors that lead to anxiety and depression among individuals in the long run, and BIRAC looks forward to partnerships to make a difference and enhance innovations around mental health in India.”

Arjun Kapoor, Programme Manager and Research Fellow at the Indian Law Society, emphasized the triadic relationship between legal rights, mental health services, and management on the ground. He talked about some of the important programs and partnerships that the Centre for Mental Health Law and Policy is undertaking in India to ensure the accessibility of mental health services at the grassroots level and also work on suicide prevention.

He stated that,

While some progress in terms of both policy and implementation has been made in recent years, there is still a lot of ground to cover in terms of how mental health interventions are imagined and supplied from the top. The stakeholders on the field, including both NGOs and the general public/beneficiaries, need to be included in the ambit of care whenever planning (for both policy and implementation) is done, to ensure that they devise solutions for themselves; in the universalization of policies at the central offices, voices from the margins are often ruled out.

Also Read: Shed Reluctance To Get Medical Help For Mental Health: Kerala CM

Dr Sukriti Chauhan, CEO of ETI Services, spoke about her experience of working on mental health, particularly with adolescents. She started with how there are more complex, convoluted mental health illnesses than the generic populations know about, and they are also largely age-sensitive, even within the group of adolescents (10-19-year-olds).

Given that, while the usual measures of promotion, prevention, and early detection can help in mitigating the imminent pandemic of mental health issues, it is also essential to have (constant) dialogue between multiple stakeholders to talk about mental health. This will involve the help of medical practitioners, public officials, civil society organizations, pressure groups, media agencies, schools, parents, and even the adolescents themselves, she added.

The session was concluded by remarks from Dr Dalbir Singh, President, Policymaker’s Forum for Mental Health.

Launched in 2021, The Policymaker’s Forum for Mental Health aims to bring together diverse stakeholders under one umbrella and seek attention of policymakers from different political parties to evolve Action Plan and suggested recommendations for the formulation of a Concerted Strategy for the prevention of suicides. The Forum is guided by eminent domain experts and practitioners in creating the necessary evidence-based data.

Also Read: Acute, Long COVID-19 Survivors At Risk Of Psychiatric Disorders: Experts

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. 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 wake of the current 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 wellbeing, 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 diarrhoea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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