bY Mirza Jahanzeb Beg
Be it autism and intellectual disability in childhood, adult conditions such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and psychosis or dementia in old age, the world is facing a challenge in the form of mental illness. According to an estimate by the World Health Organization (WHO), mental illness makes about 15% of the total disease conditions around the world. The same estimate also suggests that India has one of the largest populations affected from mental illness. As a result, WHO has labelled India as the world’s ‘most depressing country’. In addition to it, India’s corona virus crisis has pushed millions into forced isolation and unemployment. Health experts warn that anxiety, depression and suicide are on the rise and that mental health could be the country’s next crisis. A recent survey by the Indian Psychiatry Society (IPS) found that the number of mental illness cases had increased by 20% since the lockdown and that at least one in five Indians were affected. A state-level report by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), published in 2017, noted that about one in seven persons in the country suffers from mental disorders of varying severity, with depression and anxiety disorders being the most common, affecting 45.7 million and 44.9 million people, respectively. The Global Burden of Disease (GBD 2017) report predicts that depression will be the second leading cause of disability worldwide by 2020. Further, the findings of a countrywide National Mental Health Survey 2015-16 by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS) revealed that nearly 150 million Indians need active mental health care interventions while fewer than 30 million are seeking this support. It is no exaggeration to suggest that the country is under a mental health epidemic. Mental health situation in India demands active policy interventions and resource allocation by the government. To reduce the stigma around mental health, we need measures to train and sensitize the society. This can happen only when we have persistent nationwide effort to educate the society about mental diseases. We also need steps to connect the patients with each other by forming a peer network, so that they could listen and support each other. Moreover, people experiencing mental health problems should get the same access to safe and effective care as those with physical health problems. Additionally, mental illness must mandatorily be put under the ambit of life insurance. This will help people to see mental illness with the same lens as they use for physical diseases.
Mirza Jahanzeb Beg writes for various Newspapers and Magazines. His works have earned him global recognition. Mirza was nominated as the Ambassador of Peace by European Union based think tank Institute of Peace and Development in 2018. He can be reached at email@example.com