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Mental Illness in India: A Ticking Time Bomb

Mental Illness in India: A Ticking Time Bomb

Assistant Editor

11 Apr, 2019

What do we understand by mental health? Mental health refers to our cognitive, emotional, psychological and behavioral and social well being. It is a state of mind where a person is able to work positively towards realizing his or her own potential, while coping with the stresses of life. However, mostly "mental health" is a term that is mostly misunderstood. Most often "mental health" is either confused or substituted for mental health conditions like anxiety attacks, depression, Anti-social behavior, Schizophrenia and others. Though there is no consensus around a single definition of well-being, but generally all over the world it is agreed that at the minimum when we understand wellbeing it means and includes the presence of positive emotions and moods, absence of negative thoughts and emotions, satisfaction and contentment along with physical well being and energy. 

Mental well-being depends on several factors like good health, family environment, financial stability etc. Higher level of well-being is associated with decreased risk of illness and injury, betterimmunity, speedy recovery and increased life span. Individuals with high level of well being are more productive at work, compassionate, and more likely to contribute towards social causes. Research also shows that high levels of mental health are very closely associated with increased learning, creativity and productivity along with pro-social behavior and positive social interactions. 

However, mental health is a complex. One may not be experiencing a mental health condition, however that necessarily does not mean that the person's mental health is actually flourishing. In the same way an individual suffering from some kind of mental health condition might feel well in other aspects of life.

According to experts we all have the potential to develop mental health problems irrespective of our age, sex,rich or poor or the ethnic group we belong to. In this modern world where life has become like a race a large number of people are getting afflicted by mental health issue and the most common amongst them are anxiety disorders, mood disorders, schizophrenia, etc.

The most common of all mental health disorders are the ones related to anxiety. The ones that are most common are;

Panic disorder: Most often many people find themselves experiencing a sudden paralyzing terror or a nagging sensation of some kind of imminent disaster. Even though modern technology has made life easier in many ways however, the constant race to achieve put lots of pressure resulting to these kinds of anxiety attacks.

Phobias: People also suffer from different kinds of phobias, like social phobias, agoraphobia or the fear of situations where getting away or breaking free seems to be difficult. There are probably thousands of different phobias that people might get afflicted with.

Obsessive Compulsive disorder: is one disorder that is often seen or heard about. The persons who suffer from Obsessive compulsive disorders find themselves pushed by the urge to perform repetitive acts like washing hands, or excessive cleanliness.

A great number of people suffer from different types of mood disorders. Common amongst them are:

Major Depression: A person suffering from depression loses all interest in all activities that they once enjoyed. They feel sad and tired at all times and life feels like a burden. They mostly shun all social gatherings and try to remain alone mostly drowning in a sea of sadness and melancholy.

Bipolar disorder: Bipolar disorder is also known as manic depression or manic -depressive illness. People suffering from this disorder are found to switch from a state of great euphoria to sudden despair or sadness. 

Persistent depressive disorder: This disorder is similar to major depression but not as acute. This disorder was previously known as dysthymia. It is mild but chronic form of depression. 

Sadly India happens to top the charts when it comes to the number of people suffering from depression. According to a report of World health Organization India is facing serious mentalhealth crisis. It has been estimated that 56 million Indians are suffering from depression while 38 millions suffer from anxiety disorder. The most shocking is the statistic of one student committing suicide every hour due to mental distress in our country.One of the major reasons for this staggering number is the attitude and apathy that Indians have towards this problem. A survey report conducted over eight cities across India showed a staggering 47% of the population who were highly judgmental of people who were perceived to have mental illness. The survey also showed that people were more likely to advice people from keeping away from those who were depressed or that a mentally unhealthy person could affect the mental health of a otherwise mentally healthy person. Worse was 26% of the surveyed population were actually afraid of the mentally ill people. Unfortunately the respondents of this survey were from the higher socio-economic background and educated as well. Only 27% of the respondent who were young, within the age of 18 to 24, who came from relatively lower socio-economic backgrounds as well as lower educational levels were the ones who were supportive of people suffering from mental health issues. 

The stereotypes and stigma in India towards those suffering from mental illness was blatantly evident from the respondent's attitude. 60% of the surveyed population thought and believed that the main cause of mental illness was lack of self-discipline, lack of willpower and 60% of them also believed that mentally ill people could actually contaminate healthy people and as such they should stay within their own groups. To add to this owe is the lack of mental health professionals. In a country with the population of over 1.3 billion, there are just 5000 odd certified and registered psychiatrists and even less than 2000 clinical psychologists.It’s time India recognized the problem and put in place policies to help and combat this issue that is raising its ugly head. It is cause of serious concern as depression amongst employees’ effects productivity. 50% of India's workforce suffers from some or the other form of stress. Most of the individuals are depressed due to work, money or family issues. More and more professionals are experiencing workplace fatigue, sleep disorders and a general feeling of bad health and tiredness. 8% of the workforces are also showing a tendency to commit suicide.

We are sitting on a time bomb which we need to defuse and India needs to rethink about working styles, working hours, working conditions, and opportunities at work. Most importantly top priority should be set to create awareness, allocation of proper health care budget, interventions in form of medicine, psychological and social help. Immediate steps should be taken to sensitize the society, end the stigma and provide a safe and secured environment for the people who are suffering from mental health issues to live a life of dignity and confidence.

By: MadhuchandaSaxena