India’s spending on mental healthcare is meagre, lesser than that of Bangladesh. The country spends only 0.06% of its health budget on mental health. The figure becomes more striking when you know that its health budget itself is only a little more than 1% of its GDP. However, this should come as no surprise in a country which sees mental health as some sort of a taboo, a weird thing to talk about, in short: ‘log kya kahenge ki humara baccha pagal hai (what will people say, that our kid is mad)?’
Suicides, anxiety and depression are just a few of the terms people recognize India with when it comes to mental health. Recently adjudged as the most depressed country by WHO (World Health Organization), India accounts for nearly 36% of depressed people in the world.
A friend of mine narrated her horror of witnessing her friend suffering from depression and seeing that no one cares for him: “When my best friend died two years ago, we were initially not able to determine whether it was an accident or a suicide. Mindless rumors with no facts to back them up began to spread quickly like wildfire and many of them belittled and insulted his memory. In his case first, they spread a fictitious story of accidentally falling off the roof of his house. Then, I heard that he killed himself for a girl which was not true. They blamed an innocent girl who rejected his proposal two months ago. How would a 14-year-old girl feel when she is blamed for her classmate’s death?”
She further added that: “These people don’t even think. Then came various other rumors and few other people who went to the extent of saying that his parents murdered him. At least think before you speak. What I am trying to imply by this is that media shows only what people want to see. People are just so mean and apathetic to a person’s life that I am ashamed to live in a society that calls itself modern but cannot even help a troubled person.”
In 2016, a young boy in Mumbai live-streamed his suicide on Facebook. I wonder how many people called the police, how many tried to help him and how many just watched it. Are we a nation of onlookers? He was declared dead after few hours. The incident sent shockwaves across the city. In India common causes of suicide and depression start as early as childhood. In schools where the pressure of marks and the bar of expectations is set so high that the student is unable to bear it and crumbles under it.
The pressure of getting 90 plus percentage aside, the irony of our times is that even though we have social media and other avenues to talk about our problems, we still do not. And this is purely out of guilt and the age old ‘Log kya kahenge’ rhetoric. Are other people’s thoughts more important than an individual’s life?
I often blame parents who sometimes think that their kid is ‘mature enough to handle their problems.’ No. Your kid is not, even you are not but you are their last resort when they show signs of trouble, and you should not shrug it off as some school trouble or ‘personal’ matter.
In college too, we see so many anxious, depressed and, sometimes, people with suicidal tendencies who cry and vent out frustrations. But what we do is that we think their anger is towards us and we think that the person hates us. This kind of thinking must be discouraged. Nobody shouts at you without any reason.
The only thing a depressed person wants is that his friends and family talk to him. But there are times when perceptions and personal biases come in the way of helping the individual, which is not only wrong but also shows a regressive mentality and a pathological hatred for a mentally ill person.
In Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why” depression and suicide have been depicted well with strong themes centered on high school life. It is necessary because people at times are mean in high school and refuse to listen to you and tend to talk behind your back. I am not saying that the show was perfect but it helped give a new dimension to the mental health debate. Perhaps if people can’t start a mental health dialogue among themselves, TV soaps or cinema can show such stories making us aware of the issues and help a person before it is too late for them.
Why does it take a celebrity like Deepika Padukone to come out and tell the world how depressed she was for a certain level of awareness to be spread by the media and government? Is human life valued so less in our country?
The image used is representational. Source: Getty Images