Latest National Mental Health Survey, conducted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, highlighted that approximately 150 million people across India need mental health care and treatment. A report by the World Health Organization estimated that 7.5% of Indians were afflicted with some mental illness. The WHO report also predicted that the proportion would go up to 20% in the coming years.
Last year, the Government informed the parliament that it conducted the National Mental Health Survey (NMHS) of India through the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, as per which the prevalence of mental disorders in adults over the age of 18 years is about 10.6%. Significant gender differentials exist with regard to different mental disorders. The overall prevalence of mental morbidity was higher among males (13.9%) than among females (7.5%); Prevalence of mental disorders/morbidity in age group 13-17 was 7.3%, 18 – 29 years: 7.5%, 30-39 years: 14.6%, 40-49 years: 18.4%, 50-59 years: 16.1% and 60 years and above: 15.1%.
The more things are supposed to change the more they remain the same. The covid-19 pandemic, unfortunately, added a toll on mental health.
Public health experts have repeatedly said that there is a manifold increase in mental health cases amid the virulent disease with many attributing the rising stress and anxiety levels to isolation, loss of loved ones, economic uncertainty and the fear of contracting the disease.
Without a doubt, the lives have been disrupted, livelihoods of the people hurt, or even destroyed due to the pandemic. As a consequence, evidently, there is anxiety, fear, stress, and trauma.
The pandemic has surely aggravated the situation, leaving those having such issues to struggle with the symptoms and disabilities that result from what is basically and undeniable a disease which to a large extent is curable. What makes the challenge more difficult is stereotypes and prejudice such people face purely as a result from misconceptions about mental illness. As a result, people with mental illness are robbed of the opportunities that define a quality life—good jobs, satisfactory health care, and association with a diverse group of people.
Even in familial and societal setups where mental illnesses are recognised as bonafide problems, there is a taboo around seeking treatment. And a large section of people believe that seeking expert help, even if it is available, is not really needed. This mindset needs a change for a better future.