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There is light at the end of the tunnel : John Victor

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John Victor, Clinical Psychologist, CEO- Mind Solace

Picture this. Sahil a 15-year old school going teenager has been showing signs of complete withdrawal lately. He remains confined to his room or glued to a screen all day long. He has stopped going for his evening basketball classes and is rarely seen outside his home. Sahil has been enduring bullying at school since long but kept mum about it. Sahil’s parents reject the symptoms as ‘Adolescence blues’ and bombard him with instructions and advice instead. Therapy sessions with a counsellor reveals Sahil has depression. Though willing to help, the parents were largely unequipped to handle clinical depression their son was going through.

Clinical depression which is also known as Major depression isn’t limited to a day’s normal ups and downs. It can have disrupting effects on a teen’s eating, sleeping, or thinking patterns. It is common among children as they are more vulnerable but adults are badly affected too. However, it can be treated well and largely cured with therapy and antidepressant medications or a combination of the both.

While depression symptoms can be easily noticed among children, the situation is quite grim with adults. Ravi, a young and vibrant India Inc. executive, in his late twenties has been reeling under demanding work pressure. He has grown irritable, aggressive and extremely anxious. His co-workers have witnessed him having angry outburst and bouts of frustration over small matters. Ravi was diagnosed with a bipolar disorder which caused sudden mood shifts ranging from mania to depression.

A study by ASSOCHAM states that over forty two percent of employees in the Indian private sector suffer from psychological disorders due to difficult work schedules, high stress levels and performance-demanding perquisites. Delhi tops the list of such employees, followed by Bangalore, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Hyderabad and Pune with maximum share coming from IT and BPO sector.

Further studies by WHO and Govt. Of India point towards the dire need of facilitating mental health care in India. As per the data, 70 million people are estimated to suffer from psychological disabilities, with just 0.3 psychiatrists every 100, 000 people or 2.5 to 3 psychiatrists per 1 million.

Given below are few key statistics published by National Mental Health Program, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government Of India

  • Treatment gap in even severe Mental Disorders is approximately 50%. In case of common mental disorder, it is over 90 %.
  • Almost 60 to 70 million Indians suffer from Severe Mental Disorders and Common Mental Disorders.
  • There are approximately 30,000 psychiatric beds in government mental hospitals which are far less than required.
  • 3,800 psychiatrists available as against requirement of 11,500; 898 clinical psychologists as against 17250; 850 psychiatric social workers as against 23,000, 1,500 psychiatric nurses as against 3000.

Despite the high number of people who need mental health care, the area remains profoundly neglected in India. Stigma, poor awareness, myths and taboos and the lack of mental health services available has resulted in a massive treatment gap. The study by National Mental Health Survey also found that between 70 and 92 percent of those in need of mental health care could not receive the right treatment.

The poor state of mental health care in the country is emerging to be an epidemic. If not addressed, this can cause severe damage to economic output of the country. The problem can be addressed at many stages but should be tackled well at the grass root level.
First and foremost, government should provide community mental health services at the primary health care level. This can be executed by training a mental health team comprising of a psychiatrist, psychologist, social workers, and nurses. They should be sensitized well to reduce stigma and social taboos associated with mental health problems. Secondly, government policies and programmes need to be more inclusive of mental health care facilities and funding. The recent policies should call for bigger funding along with an increased number of professionals to be trained from the community.

While community mental-health services can offer clinical, psychological and social services to people, Individual counselling can help build resilience and determination among the mental health patients. Providing education to the patients’ families is also a step in the right direction. A family usually has tremendous influence on an individual’s mental health and can contribute significantly towards the person’s psychiatric treatment.

Stigma is one of the biggest deterrent for seeking mental health care in India. People with mental health issues are either made to feel ashamed about how they feel or are often isolated. Especially in communities where issues around mental health is still a social taboo. The problem also brings forth the deeply rooted gender biases in our society. Despite having higher suicide rates in men, they are significantly less likely to seek treatment. Men are not encouraged to be emotionally expressive and are expected to be ‘strong’. Any display of despair and gloominess by men invites labelling and sarcasm.

Mental health patients not only need dignity and respect but also seek constant encouragement to get well. Afterall, a person seeking help for a mental illness is stronger than those who do not. It takes a lot of courage to rise above stereotypes to ask for the help one needs and deserves.

This is where the need for education and awareness comes in. We as a society, should find opportunities to pass on facts and positive attitudes about people with mental health problems.
Experts should be encouraged to build a momentum to provide better care and combat stigma. A timely treatment for millions like Sahil and Ravi can bring back a ray of hope and laughter among our youth. Let’s make sure that happens.

Authored By John Victor, Clinical Psychologist, CEO- Mind Solace
First Mental Health platform recognized by Start-up India

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