It was during the COVID-19 lockdowns and months of seclusion when the world at large realized the need to talk about mental health and how widespread the issues were. A largely neglected topic and taboo in many cultures, mental well-being tends to be underplayed every time as “just a phase that will pass soon”. Visiting a councillor or a psychologist is looked down upon, especially in India, where yet in today’s time many people equate any issue with psyche as madness and the only solution being rehabilitation. But it has changed considerably during the pandemic. As it has encouraged more and more people to accept and talk about mental well being, it also brought about a wave of new issues to be addressed.
World Mental Health Day on October 10th
Every year, the World Health Organization celebrates World Health Day on October 10th. The overall objective of which is “to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health.” The Day provides an opportunity for all stakeholders working on the matter to talk about their work, and what needs to be done to make it more accessible to people worldwide.
The theme for 2021 is Mental health care for all: let’s make it a reality.
With mental health being the most talked about issue during the World Health Assembly in May 2021, this year WHO will showcase the efforts made by certain countries to highlight positive stories and spread optimism especially focusing on the impact caused by the Covid-19 pandemic on various groups of people. WHO will also provide new materials, in easy-to-read formats, on how to take care of one’s own mental health and provide support to others too.
What the studies and numbers tell us
“Some groups, including health and other frontline workers, students, people living alone, and those with pre-existing mental health conditions, have been particularly affected. And services for mental, neurological and substance use disorders have been significantly disrupted,” said the WHO on its website.
There has been a substantial increase in instances of panic attacks, phobias and OCD. People are wary of a third wave, job losses, infections, unavailability of healthcare during the crisis and being confined to homes again. The effect on children is also significant, with screen addiction on the rise, as they are spending their time glued to screen for everything – from studies to games – impacting their physical health, concentration as well as memory. There has also been a rise in instances of violence against them with adults growing frustrated with every passing day.
WHO estimates that the burden of mental health problems in India is 2443 disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) per 100 00 population; the age-adjusted suicide rate per 100 000 population is 21.1. The economic loss due to mental health conditions, between 2012-2030, is estimated at USD 1.03 trillion.
The Indian Perspective
India has made significant improvements in addressing the issue surrounding mental well-being, with measures like a councillor being available in almost all educational institutions to address the concerns of students and give them guidance. There have also been efforts in sensitizing the population about the importance of addressing them, supporting the ones in distress and seeking professional help when needed.
- The Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 provides the legal framework for providing services to protect, promote and fulfil the rights of people with mental illnesses. These are in line with the United Nations Convention on Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
- The National Mental Health Programme and Health and Wellness Centre are efforts to provide quality care at the primary health care level. De-addiction centre and rehabilitation services are also available.
Highlighting the need for good mental health, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare posted on KOO – “ #MentalHealth is an integral part of health and well-being. Good mental health enables people to realize their potential, cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and contribute to their communities.”
There were also posts from the Ministry of Aayush and the Department of Women and Child Development, highlighting the importance of the issue in their respective fields. Mental Health Awareness week is also being celebrated with various initiatives addressing the issues and getting help to those in need.