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FACE UP TO THE “EPIDEMIC”

Mental Disorders

By Harsh Sharma

The latest report of the World Health Organisation on the status of mental health across the globe is alarming. Over 30 crore people are suffering from depression or other mental disorders globally. More alarming is its corresponding effect on the world economy, as it is losing over 67 lakh crore rupees annually on this count. The world’s so called super power, the US, says the report, is the highest ‘depressed’ country, where one person out of every five have admitted to facing depression and mental disorders at least once during their lifetime. And, in Europe, over 8 crore people are facing severe mental disorders.

If the report is to be believed, the cases of mental infirmities rose at a staggering rate of 18% per annum in the decade of 2005 to 2015 across the globe. Moreover, the number of persons suffering from anxiety and restlessness is no less, since over 26 crore people suffer from these initial symptoms of depression.

As far as India is concerned, over 8% population suffers from major or minor mental disorders that require expert intervention. The WHO states that depressive disorders are characterised by sadness, loss of interest, feelings of guilt or low self-growth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness and poor concentration. Anxiety disorders refer to a group of mental disorders characterised by a feeling of anxiety and fear, including generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder phobias, social anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

According to available reports, over 42% corporate employees suffer from depression in India primarily due to intense work pressure and sleeping less than six hours a day thereby leading to diseases like depression, hypertension and sugar etc. Sadly, 36% of Indians are likely to suffer from major depression at some point of their lives because of sedentary life styles, socio-economic concerns and anxieties and other day-to-day stresses.

It means that India is highly prone to growth of mental disorders and psychological disabilities in future due to several factors. Ironically, nearly half of those with severe mental diseases are not treated the way they need to, to fully recover from the ailment.

Unfortunately, suicide has become the second leading cause of death in the age group of 18-29 years. In other words, youth are ending their lives on trivial matters like break-up in love, economic and social insecurity, lack of patience, failing to meet high expectations in education and employment, lack of attention from loved ones, poverty and various social stigma etc.

Socially speaking, depression or mental illness is still a stigma in India because we give more importance to our community and not to an individual. We are more concerned about “what people will think”, which tends to aggravate the problem. Though depression is a very common ailment these days, people fail to realise its intensity. According to Sanya Sehgal, President, Social Club in India, “it is not just a state of being sad, depression is so painful that it prevents the person from being able to express the simplest of thoughts, which often leads to withdrawal from reality and loss of words to express their feelings”.

Truly, depression is much stigmatised in society today. While it’s getting better about being less judgmental, there will always be people who reject the reality and struggle of depression. The general public needs to be better informed on psychological complications and not to view these as a sign of weakness and not to push the patients around. This makes them more frustrated especially if they are blamed by mentioning past behaviour and making them feel guilty—which, in fact, makes an already bad situation worse.

According to psychologists, depressed or mentally ill people need the same kind of attention as an addict needs in a rehabilitation centre. However, one who doesn’t suffer from this illness will be able to feel the pain and traumatising effects it takes on a person who has to live with depression every moment of the day.

Interestingly, mental disability—which may be hereditary or environmental—has, in the recent past, belied the myth of afflicting persons of lower or middle strata of society. The latest examples of comedian Kapil Sharma, actress Deepika Padukone, singer Honey Singh, new-comer actress of Dangal fame Zaira Wasim and several other celebrities amply prove that the disease has transcended all social and economic barriers. It seems to be all about one’s temperament, mental capacity and toughness, inbuilt positivity, emotional balance, family support  and an attitude like, “life does not end here”, that prepares a person to rebut the disease at the outset—unless it is chronically a hereditary and incurable one.

   

Lately, I happened to spend many sleepless nights at a hospital to attend to a close relative— a hosteller youth studying a graduation course in a private university—who, all of a sudden, developed grave symptoms of psychological disorder, later diagnosed as “manic depression”. His behaviour was perfectly alright even a couple of days before the disorder caught up with him suddenly without any such medical history. There I came across several young off springs of top bureaucrats and police officers, successful businessmen and well-to-do families—who did not have any such family history but who were diagnosed with deep depression or bipolar disorder.

Interestingly, such depressed youths treat their own family members or the prevailing system as their worst enemies during illness, possibly holding them responsible for their failures, if any, leading them to land at a bed in the Psychiatric Ward.

Undoubtedly, the society in general and family in particular needs to adopt a more humane and sympathetic approach towards mentally-ill or depressed persons. They must not be looked down upon and humiliated because of the psychological disorders. In fact, such people need constant love, support and encouragement to help them get out of the trauma.

To help the persons afflicted by such a mental state, the Government has enacted ‘The Mental Healthcare Bill 2017’, which aims to provide for mental healthcare services for persons with mental illness and ensure they have the right to live a life of dignity by not being discriminated or harassed by the family or the society. Moreover, the Act provides that a person with mental illness shall have the right to confidentiality in respect of his/her mental health, mental healthcare, treatment and physical healthcare.

Further it provides that photograph or any other information pertaining to the person cannot be released to the media without the consent of the person with mental illness. Hence, there must not be any case of the society castigating a person with mental illness.

Nevertheless, there is an urgent need to upgrade mental healthcare facilities in the country keeping in view the ever-increasing number of such patients. President Ramnath Kovind too has admitted that the nation is facing a possible “mental health epidemic.” He stressed the need to take up access to treatment facilities by 2022 as a national mission, given the meager presence of around 5,000 psychiatrists and less than 2,000 clinical psychologists in the country to cater to the mental health needs of a large number of suffering population.

To sum up, India needs to evolve an effective and adequate mental healthcare mechanism to deal with the challenge of diagnosing and treating mental disabilities so as to contribute to the growth of the economy as well as healthy human resource. Needless to say, a congenial atmosphere at home and in society, positive change in people’s mindset and constant family support will greatly help in minimising the number of mentally ill persons which will save the country from the threat of this “epidemic” in future.

           

 

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