General Health

Truth About Mental Health Illness In India

Mental Health Illness in India

Analytical overview of mental health disorders

The perplexing reality of mental health illness sadly remains very unheard to many, because its seldom discussed or even acknowledged due to many reasons. Due to the sheer logic that it is unjustifiably deemed as extremely illogical. Most of us are scared to admit, even to ourselves let alone close friends and family that we might be struggling from basic mental stress and surreptitiously tend to keep it hidden.

Mental health issues varies, from those brought on from birth, history of stress in the family, abuse during childhood, biological factors like chemical imbalances in the brain, an illness, injury, side effects from drugs or plain and simple stress that could be related to a various number of reasons related to one’s lifestyle. Mental disorders are conditions that affect your moods, emotions and behaviour, these usually last for a certain phase or be Chronic making it long-lasting.

This can disrupt your ability to interact with others and function properly in your daily activities. The most common type of mental disorder that affects millions around the world are, Anxiety disorders, Phobias, OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) Depression, Bipolar disorder (as well as various mood disorders), Eating disorders, personality disorders, PSTD (Post-traumatic stress disorder and Psychotic disorders like Schizophrenia.

The ever-changing lifestyle that remains chaotic, stressful and extremely competitive, indeed plays a vital role in everyone dealing with stress in their everyday life. But do we really know how to deal with our stress, anxieties, fears, phobias and emotions in an appropriate manner? Are we truly living in an understanding and loving environment that helps us deal with issues that we generally are scared to talk about? Do our friends and family truly understand us and encourage a healthy form of communication?

The sometimes unjustified and irrelevant stress we face in the workplace due to a perpetual competition we have to face with our aggressively ambitious subordinates and the pressure from our employers to always give them our 100%, has lost meaning of what being happily successful in our careers truly means.

We are choosing to embark on a very turbulent journey to achieve the life we have all dreamt of, without realising we are killing our inner peace, our balance and our real happiness. This noxious cycle begins with us during childhood, the constant pressure to achieve higher grades and to live up to our parent’s expectations, is how we are unknowingly pre-programmed to live and learn to survive a Dog-eat-dog world but aren’t taught about how life would at times not go the way we plan and instead encourage us to accept it gracefully and focus on a having a “Plan B” in life.

This leads to pressure from all aspects of your life eventually start to cave in thus causing stress, depression and mentally related issues that we chose to suppress and not speak of as society will label us as “Mad”, Is all this needless mayhem really necessary?

The primary reason behind the rise of mental health disorders in India

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 15% of total diseases around the world are made up of mental illness. The survey also resulted in the fact that India has one of the largest populations in the world that is affected with mental illnesses, and consequently India has been labelled as the worlds ‘Most Depressing Country’. According to a study done, it was revealed that from 1990 to 2017, one out of seven people has suffered from some kind of mental illness like schizophrenia, depression, anxiety etc. It is not surprising that we currently are facing a mental health epidemic, which not many are willing to address.

The WHO states that the primary reason behind this rise in the deterioration of Mental health in India is because of the lack of awareness and sensitivity about the issue, which is still considered taboo. The more disturbing reality is that according to WHO’s study done in 2011, there were only 0.301 psychiatrists and 0.047 psychologists for every 100,000 patients suffering from a mental health disorder.

What I would like to address here is the Mental Health issues faced by the common man which is dramatically on the rise, many that suffer from mental and emotional stress in their daily lives, is inevitably snowballing into something very sinister and deleterious. The seriousness of mental wellbeing in India has become a taboo as time progressed. Today an average man, woman or even a child that faces stress, programme themselves to never talk about it, let alone seek help. They chose to turn to their confidantes in hopes to seek some comfort or solutions to what trouble their mind.

This is never a proper way to seek the right kind of help because many are still under the notion that if you are mentally weak or going through a turbulent phase in life, it’s ridiculous to even consider seeing a therapist, because of the fear of being labelled as a ‘Lunatic’, when in fact they are truly the ones who can properly guide you how to deal with your hurdles more efficiently by talking about your fears, inhibitions and phobias. Therapist and psychiatrists don’t usually have a welcoming demand for their services by many in India.

So, what perhaps caused this negative mindset to be so deeply embedded in the minds of millions? Our diverse culture that is so bound to tradition plays a major role in this primitive way of thinking. Our ancestors dealt with their crises with a much stronger mind than we do today.

The sad reality is in many ways’ humans have become more sensitive, emotionally unstable and mentally stressed purely due to the fact that many haven’t had a healthy upbringing that would have shielded them against mental and emotional stress life would throw at them. In the past our forefathers were not strangers to turbulent times, they struggled and fought against the odds to survive and built a bright future for their offspring’s and they did it with determination and strong will power.

While many at the time didn’t be as victorious in their endeavours and did suffer from all kinds of mental health issues but they still remain marginal as compared to the deadly rise we see today.

Statistics of mental health disorders in India

In an extensive research study done on the burden of mental disorders across the states of India, which was part of, The Global Burden of Disease Study 1990–2017 was published on December 20th 2019 in The Lancet Medical Journal. The revelations of their study raise some very important issues on our approach to mental health in India.

Findings of the study, 1990 to 2017

  • 197.3 million people were diagnosed with mental disorders, out of which 45.7million had depressive disorders and 44.9 million suffer from anxiety disorders
  • A significant correlation between depressive disorders and suicide death rate levels for males and females was found.
  • Mental Health disorders played a key role in the increase of DALY in India. A 2.5% rise in 1990 and a 4.7% rise in 2017. (DALY, the Disability-adjusted life year, is a measure of the burden a disease has and is expressed as the number of years lost due to ill-health, disability or early death)
  • Depressives disorders were the major contributor to the total mental disorder DALY in 2017 which was 33.8%. Anxiety Disorders were 19%, Idiopathic Developmental Intellectual disability (IDID) was 10.8%, Schizophrenia 9,8%, Bipolar disorder was 6.9%, Conduct Disorder 5.9%, Autism Spectrum disorders 3.2%, Eating Disorders 2.2%, Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) was 0.3% and other mental disorders amounted to 8%
  • The DALY rate point of mental disorder that began in Childhood and Adolescence was higher in 2017, whereas the rate reversed for mental disorders that manifested during adulthood.
  • One in seven Indians are affected by different forms of mental disorders in 2017
  • The contribution mental disorders have ha in the total disease count in India has doubled since 1990

Alarming rise in suicides in India

Unless and until you hear of a suicide of a famous celebrity only then does the issues of Mental Health Illnesses sparks debates on almost all social media platforms. The obvious questions are that what could have driven a person to give up when they had so much to live for in their life. For us to assume someone well settled, having a comfortable life with riches and fame would have no reason to kill themselves and for the fact is they appeared to be very content in life, leaves us flabbergasted when it’s revealed that they, in fact, were incomplete emotional hell that they cleverly hid behind their smile.

This is the fault of society that deems any sort of mental illness as taboo and the lack of proper information on mental health illness. Very few get the support they need at the right time, while the unfortunate ones that do not make it, leave us with a critical question ‘Are we truly getting the proper emotional support which is imperative to our mental stability?”

The bitter truth is that thoughts of suicide don’t evade us all, it is estimated that suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among 12-year olds, and one out of every child between the ages of 6 and 12 have suicidal thoughts. The reasons why a child thinks of such drastic measure are due to many factors, some of which are listed below.

  1. Mental illness
  2. Physical or Sexual Abuse
  3. Dealing with the death of a loved one
  4. Aggressive impulsive behaviour
  5. Lack of social support/isolation
  6. Difficulties in dealing with sexual orientation
  7. Loss
  8. Traumatic event
  9. Disturbed family life
  10. Inability to cope up
  11. Physical disabilities/illness
  12. Humiliation or unsupportive family

2016 saw a rise in suicides in India and it was recorded to be the most common cause of death between 15-39-year olds. An estimated 800,000 people are reported to die by suicide worldwide each year, out of which 17% is made up of people from India. The ratio of male to female suicide rate is 2:1. According to the WHO reports age-standardised suicide rate in India is16.4 per 100,000 for Woman, which is 6 highest in the world, and for men, it was 25.8 making it the 22nd in the world standing of suicide rates.

Resolution and proper awareness of mental health Illness

According to research done by the National Centre for Biotechnology (NCBI) on Mental Health Awareness: The Indian Scenario, campaigns that have been specifically designed to address the stigma around mental illness have been proved effective. The target of this initiative was to sensitize the issues, educate all about the types of mental health illness, the severity of it, the impact it can have on children to adults in various social standings in life and more importantly how it should not be considered a taboo.

The importance of such a campaign is to reach out to the masses from all various social ranks and communities and tackle the stigmas and discrimination they have because of their lack of proper knowledge and oblivious behaviour towards mental health issues. This mindset has a very negative impact in India as the Statistics clearly reveal, we need to wake up and start collectively working together in dealing with this sinister illness that lurks in the lives of many that we ignore insensitively.

A further study revealed that basic mental health literacy among adolescents was very low and they were enveloped with the stigma that discouraged them to seek proper professional help. It is imperative that people get the right information and guidance about mental health illness that affects 6-year olds to adults of all ages. A well planned and executed Mental Health Awareness campaign must include detailed insightful information on the disorders, causes, how to self-help, how to seek professional help and finding the right avenues to educate yourself on what mental drawback you could be dealing with.

It is essential that under the guidance of a therapist patients get to connect with each other and help by listening and sharing their experiences to break the odium and shame behind mental health illness. The perception of Mental health illness must change and be just as important as other illness that receives benefits of health insurances. Attaining proper professional help is imperative and the availability of therapist for all levels of status is critical. Many can’t afford overpriced therapists and often avoid those options.

Currently, ASHA accredited social health activists is a model set up by the Government of India which began their mission in 2012, where health workers educated women and children about mental diseases and guided them on how to find professional help near to them when they needed it.

This helped momentarily but a campaign on a much larger scale it needs of the moment, where the same model would be implemented in, schools, universities, workplaces, residential areas, villages and even slums. Everyone needs to be approached and educated for no one is safeguarded from getting affected with a mental disease, which we know begins when we suppress our anxieties, fears, failures and inadequacies.

How you can help someone and yourself!

We all have faced depression at some point in our life. No one in today’s world is a stranger to stress or anxiety, especially since we are facing a pandemic that keeps all of us extra alert, mindful and cautious. Learning to recognise what disrupts your peace of mind is the first step to self-awareness. Adapt and acknowledge to yourself first, that sometimes it’s ok that we need guidance to help us get by through trying phase in our life.

The most crucial rule you must be aware of is, that its ok to become weak at times, were we designed to accept, adapt and change, that’s how we humans have evolved through time and progressed through every adversity we have faced.

Allowing yourself to accept your mental vulnerability doesn’t make you crazy or a coward, in fact, it shows the true character that is magnanimous and egoless to seek help when it truly needs it and never let anyone tell you any differently. As I am reminded by the flight safety measures the flight crew narrate, wherein, the first advise you to put on your Oxygen mask before helping another, this is where I will tell you as well, be your 100% before you can truly be a saviour to someone else.

And yes! You are needed! What we all have in common in each other is that we first turn to our friends and families to seek that comfort and solace and almost never think about trying alternative therapies.  You all can do your bit in helping another by first educating yourself on the recognising underlying mental health illness you might see your, friend, family memeber or a mere acquaintance struggle with and help in them in attaining the right help they need.

Many times I have seen my own friends struggle with their parents even after all these years where they can’t stand up for themselves and be who they truly want and wind up forlorn, dejected and lose self-confidence. We must truly ask ourselves, have we let society and traditional norms overpower us to the point we have all lost our inner peace? Have we succumbed to the rigid and stringent rules of family pressure to live a certain way that never benefits our happiness and personal growth?

Is it time we collectively spoke up for those who lost their voices to many factors that restricted their emancipation and be a support to them in their turbulent times and just let them know it’s all going to be fine regardless of their self-inflicted and provoked fears and phobias?

We need to take a stand and address this extremely important crises our country faces today that many chose to ignore and discard away. We need a healthier form of communication amongst ourselves, a more realistic view on the expectations we pressurize on others and a liberal and healthy mindset that truly believes that mental health illness is not disgraceful or taboo, as we all have our downfalls and it’s perfectly normal to accept it and to seek professional help for it.

As Buddha taught us, about the Four Noble truths, which are…

4 Noble Truths

Dukkha: The indefinite existence of suffering in Samsara

Samudya: Understanding the origin of suffering

Nirodha: Knowing there is a cessation of suffering

Magga: Knowing the there is definitely a path that will lead you out of suffering

This is Samsara, we live in it! It was never supposed to be easy, suffering for us humans whether emotional, physical or mental was inevitable. Accepting this is essential, knowing it will end through a path that will lead you out of suffering is integral for you to know. As we deal with stress in our own ways, through meditation, a hobby, spending time with a loved one, going on holiday or just by giving yourself a private personal retreat, always know that if you sense an urge to seek help it’s ok, and it’s perfectly normal if your suffering, you not alone in it.

Never feel ashamed of your mental fragility, your only human and we all stumble in life at some point but we get up, brush off the dirt, and get back on our feet stronger and wiser! I leave you with this positive quote that’s has a very powerful impact when you truly sense the essence of its meaning.

“The Secret of health for both the mind and the body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly”. ~ Buddha

Stay safe! Be strong and always believe in yourself!

Happy Healing Ya’ll!!!

One thought on “Truth About Mental Health Illness In India

  1. Rajesh says:

    Very informative article, I would not have thought that the mental health issue is such a huge deal in India given our family structure.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *