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India Should Invest In Mental Health Awareness, It Is The Need Of The Hour: Expert

NDTV speaks with an expert to know how COVID-19 pandemic is having an impact on people’s mental health, what are some of the early signs to look out for if suffering from some form of mental illness

India Should Invest In Mental Health Awareness, It Is The Need Of The Hour: Expert
  • In India, 56 million Indians suffer from depression: WHO
  • And another 38 million Indians suffer from anxiety disorders states WHO
  • India needs mental health awareness movement now, more than ever: Expert

New Delhi: “Even in today’s day and age – 2020, the scenario surrounding mental health in India has not changed much. People still use terms like paagal, mental hai kya, so casually. Also, there is still a lot of stigma attached to mental illness, people don’t want to talk about this at all..,” says Anusha Tyagi, Arts based Therapist & Psychologist, Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, from Fortis Healthcare, New Delhi as she speaks with NDTV about Mental Illness, its growing numbers in the country and how the current COVID pandemic has made it worse.

As far as numbers are concerned, according to World Health Organization, in India, about 7.5 per cent people suffer from some mental disorder. WHO also predicts that by end of this year roughly 20 per cent of India will suffer from mental illnesses. In numbers, approximately, 56 million Indians suffer from depression and another 38 million Indians suffer from anxiety disorders, states WHO.

Also Read: In Numbers, The Burden Of Mental Disorders In India

Adding to the problem, the workforce needed to address mental health in India just don’t add up. There is a huge shortage of psychiatrists and psychologists in the country as compared to the number of people suffering from mental health issues. WHO states that in India, per 100,000 population there are 0.3 psychiatrists, 0.12 nurses, 0.07 psychologists and 0.07 social workers, while the desirable number is anything above 3 psychiatrists and psychologists per 100,000 population.

India Should Invest In Mental Health Awareness, It Is The Need Of The Hour: Expert

There is a huge shortage of psychiatrists and psychologists in the country as compared to the number of people suffering from mental health issues.

Ms Tyagi added,

India has just about 3,827 psychiatrists against 13,500 required and less than 800 against 20,250 required psychologists. That pretty much sums up our country’s mental health issues.

Talking about impact of COVID-19 on mental health of patients or people in general, Ms Tyagi added,

Since the beginning of March 2020, impact of the black swan event has adversely impacted mental health around the globe and not just in India. It has impacted every section of the society – kids, youngsters, adults and even professionals like doctors. Coronavirus pandemic has completely changed the circumstances in which people live and this has led to increased stress levels. Frontline workers like doctors are confined to the same routine for endless or long-long hours, they are also away from their families and are continuously seeing patients suffering from a disease which is still unknown. Whereas, kids can’t go out and play, youngsters or adults can’t meet their friends and families like before. All this has had a huge-huge impact on person’s mental health and it is something which is often ignored. As far as patients are concerned, since there is so much already been talked about coronavirus and with growing numbers of deaths linked to COVID-19 there is already a constant fear of losing lives in the patient’s mind.

Also Read: With Her Book, ’C’ Is For Cat, ‘D’ Is For Depression, A 22-Year-Old Author Is Helping Children Deal With Mental Health Issues

Further talking about mental health, Ms Tyagi said that mental health awareness is the need of the hour and India should invest in it. Highlighting some of the facts by WHO, she said,

According to WHO, every one in seven individuals suffer from some form of mental health issue in India. Therefore, addressing the lack of awareness, accessibility, and infrastructure associated with mental health is the need of the hour.

She also said that the reason for India for losing the mental health battle is basically lack of awareness and sensitivity about the issue. Sharing a personal experience and statistics from a recent survey highlighting an increase in number of people suffering from some kind of mental illness, Ms Tyagi said,

According to a survey conducted by Suicide Prevention Foundation of India (SPFI) recently there has been a visible increase in people who have reported self-harm, as well as those who have expressed suicidal ideas and the individuals who had previously recovered have now relapsed because of unavailability of the resources and external conditions. We at Fortis Healthcare, run a 24/7 Suicide and Stress helpline (+91-8376804102), which is handled by trained psychologists, we have also observed a spike in number of callers daily since the lockdown started which clearly indicates that mental health is indeed a need of the hour in today’s scenario.

Also Read: Expert Suggests Five Simple Ways That Can Help Take Care Of Your Mental Health Amid COVID-19

Listing out the early signs people should look out for mental illness and reach out for help, if needed. She added:

  • Constant fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job, or loss of support services you rely on
  • Prolonged feeling of being unhappy or losing interest in activities that you earlier enjoyed
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Sudden and dramatic emotional outbursts or changes in mood
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating. Sleeping too much or too little could also indicate depression or a sleeping disorder
  • Worsening of chronic health problems. Fluctuating weight or rapid weight loss could be one of the warning signs of a mental illness, such as depression or an eating disorder. Other mental health issues can impact appetite
  • If a friend or loved one is regularly isolating themselves, they may have been experiencing depression, anxiety, or any other mental health related issue
  • Feeling guilty or worthless with thoughts like: ‘I’m a failure’, ‘It’s my fault’ or ‘I’m worthless’

She said,

These are all possible signs of a mental health illness. When these symptoms go severe, a person may express a feeling to hurt or kill oneself. This feeling could mean the person is suicidal and urgent help is needed.

Also Read: How Yoga Can Improve Your Mental Health Especially During Coronavirus Pandemic

Ms Tyagi also suggested tips for people to cope up with any kind of mental health related issues:

  • Stay connected: engaging in regular conversations with your family, friends, colleagues. Express your feelings as it helps address struggles, support each other emotionally, IT is the best way to stay safe and maintain connectivity during social distancing. Share your experiences in lockdown, new learned skills
  • Maintain productivity: Try to maintain daily routine and prioritising work schedules like you had before this lockdown. Creating daily to do lists also acts as a helpful tool in maintaining daily tasks, monthly goals and also helps in planning activities for other things. Taking regular breaks in between work also prevents burnouts than working at a long stretch
  • Go off the grid: Leave your smart phone at home for a day and disconnect from constant e-mails, alerts, and other interruptions. Spend time doing something fun with someone face-to-face
  • Make time to unwind: Try to do some other activities you enjoy along with your daily work routine. Reading, gardening, baking, pick up your old hobbies. Try meditation, introduce art making sessions with family and friends, play online games, indulge in dance/movement self-facilitated sessions. Journaling is another good option that really helps one to relax. You should take time and include little space for creativity
  • Take care of your body: Healthy body, healthy mind! Take deep breaths, stretch, meditate, incorporate light workouts each day. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals. Exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, avoid excessive alcohol and drug use
  • Reach out for help: In times of distress and emotional struggles, don’t hesitate to talk to a professional or your support system. Acknowledging distress helps in dealing with it in a better way. Mental health is a science, which should not be neglected and should be given utmost importance than any other physical illnesses one experiences.

I strongly feel, each one of us should be a mental health advocate and should encourage people to not hesitate, to unmute themselves and to reach out to the ones who are close to or to consult a mental health professional when we feel the need to, Ms Tyagi signed off.

During the event organised by WHO on World Mental Health Day (October 10), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO also stressed on why the world needs to focus on Mental Health issues and make investment in mental health services. He said,

As we continue to live through a global pandemic, we need movement on mental health, perhaps more than we have ever needed it before. We need to move for our own mental health, the mental health of our families, friends and colleagues, and more importantly, so that there is a massive increase in investment for mental health services at national and international levels.

He further added,

The magnitude of the mental health burden faced around the world is not being matched by the investment it requires. The extraordinary increase in mental health needs ̶ with the added challenges of COVID-19 ̶ is taking its toll on already overburdened and under-resourced mental health services. Countries spend on average only 2 per cent of their health budgets on mental health. Despite some increases in recent years, international development assistance for mental health has never exceeded 1 per cent of all development assistance for health.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also said that this is the difficult time, but it’s important to continue looking after your physical and mental health. Urging people to take mental health seriously and make sure they talk about their issues with people around them, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus signed off by adding,

It’s normal to feel stressed, confused and scared during a crisis. But it is important that you talk to people you know and trust, it can help.

(If you need support or know someone who does, please reach out to your nearest mental health specialist.) Helplines: 1) Vandrevala Foundation for Mental Health – 1860-2662-345 or help@vandrevalafoundation.com  2) TISS iCall – 022-25521111 (Monday-Saturday: 8 am to 10 pm)  

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. 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 highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. 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 become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Pratap

    January 12, 2021 at 10:21 am

    Thank you!! Before reading this I just only knew about mental health. I took it likely. But now I am very aware of mental health. Mental Health is more important than physical health. Again Thank You!!

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