The national mental health survey in 2016 conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) revealed that 13.7% of India’s population is suffering from a variety of mental illnesses and 10.6% of them require immediate treatment.
A World Health Organization (WHO) report revealed that the suicide rate in India in 2015 was 15.7/100000, higher than the global average (10.6/100000). This remains a massive unaddressed issue. Suicide is the leading cause of death among those aged between 15 to 29 in India. Apart from suicide, other mental illnesses such as depression are on the rise in India.
A study by NIMHANS in 2016 has shown that one in 20 people in India suffers from depression and the productive age group is the most affected.
Though some efforts have been made by the government in the form of the National Mental Health Programme (NMHP) and District Mental Health Programme (DMHP), it is mostly reserved for the privileged section.
A large population remains untreated and goes unnoticed because of the high cost of mental health care. The poor and marginalized remain neglected.
While doing my thesis, I worked with the tribals of Gadchiroli district to know about their mental health. It made me realize the needs of people as well as the unavailability of mental health resources. The state’s DMHP project failed to reach the underprivileged population.
I’m happy that now people are talking about mental health. As we know, there is a stigma attached with mental illness which is why it has remained a neglected area. But I want to emphasize the fact that half knowledge is dangerous. So educating oneself about mental health, destigmatizing mental illnesses and asking for help is important and should be normalized. Media and social platforms can play an important role in addressing this lack of mental health awareness.
With discourses about the issue gaining ground, I also want to emphasize the fact that the people who are talking about mental health are the ones who can afford treatment. Problems of the marginalized section of the population never make it to TV or social media.
As a student of mental health, I realized the importance of the language we use for mental illness or even for suicide. It is important to educate people and not to call them names like ‘mentally ill’ which gives the impression that the illness is the identity of the person which is not true.
The fact is that mental illness is stigmatized and people do not understand its importance. The rate of asking for help is also low and many people go untreated. I feel more awareness in schools, colleges, online platforms and even at the political level is needed to educate people about mental health.
Mental health is an emerging issue and being from the tribal area of Maharashtra, I have worked with the tribals of Gadchiroli. I feel lack of mental health services and affordability are the reasons why many tribals are not…
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