According to the World Health Organization, India is the most depressed country in the world, with around 6.5 % of the population suffering from some form of mental illness i.e. depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), schizophrenia to name a few.
India spends just 0.06% of its health budget on mental health. More than 80% of people do not seek any professional help and there is also a dearth of mental health care professionals. There is just one psychiatrist for 3 lakh people, not a very healthy ratio. The stigma and ignorance towards mental health is making the situation daunting, as it’s often confused with madness.
In worst cases, depression leads to suicide. The average suicide rate in India is 10.9 for every lakh people, and the majority of people are below 44 years of age.
It’s very easy to say “I have a cold,” because of course if you are suffering from a cold, you will have a runny nose, watery eyes, a headache, and sneeze a lot. People around you will probably rush to get you some adrak wali chai or some medicine and will ensure that you stay warm. But when it comes to depression, when you feel that gnawing hollowness in your chest, that weird emptiness in your stomach, inability to feel any emotion or getting things as simple as combing your hair done. How do people around you react?
Let me guess, if you are a guy, people around you ask you to man up and stop being a loser and if you are a girl people conveniently assume that either you are having ‘woh waali problem’ or you are just trying to garner attention. This blatant apathy and ignorance towards the person suffering from a mental disorder is the major reason why India is now suffering from a major mental health crisis.
India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Post-liberalization India has made phenomenal progress. However, this fast pace of development has its downside too. It has impacted every sphere of Indian society. Right from the beginning, an individual is forced to participate in a rat race and ultimately ends up living a stressful life which is an outcome of modern lifestyle riddled with unhealthy competition and constant societal scrutiny at every phase of life.
People have still not developed capabilities to adapt to these fast-changing ways of the world amidst globalization and constantly changing technologies. They are not equipped with healthy life skills to deal with any life crisis and mismatch in expectations and end up taking resort to drugs, alcohol and sometimes, suicide.
India cannot become a superpower until and unless this crisis is dealt with. Twenty percent of India’s population will suffer from some form of mental health problem by 2020, reducing our economic growth by 11 trillion dollars by 2030. We can no longer afford to ignore mental health.
As a society, it’s our responsibility to be empathetic towards people suffering from depression or any other mental health issue. The responsibility of government is to enhance the spending and be more proactive by delivering health care services addressing mental health at a primary level.
The revamped Mental Health Care bill passed in March 2017 is a step in the right direction. However, the real challenge lies in implementing the bill in letter and spirit. We are a democratic nation which bestows upon its citizens the right to equality and the right to live with dignity.
Those suffering from mental health issues must not be deprived of these rights. India has always been an inclusive society. We can’t let our own people down by making them feel any lesser a part of this society.