Humans don’t often take things seriously and often make fun of other people until they can relate to them personally. Mental health problems are the finest example of this human inclination. Because we cannot see the physical symptoms of mental illness, like those of cancer or other diseases, it is frequently mocked and not treated as a disease. The fundamental problem is that no one truly understands how dangerous mental health issues are or what they entail. Even though mental illness has been since the beginning of time, discussions about it are still relatively recent. This discussion has grown in volume because of the lockdown and this period is now occasionally referred to as a “mental health wave.” We’ve finally started talking about it, and I’m delighted we’ve learned more about our mental health. As the adage goes, “Better late than never.” Even though awareness has only lately started, however, the primary question is whether Indian mental health laws are sufficient to handle the growing problem of mental illness.
INDIA’S MENTAL HEALTH SITUATION
The lockout served as a wake-up call and reality check for India’s mental health issue. Although it’s common to think of mental illness as a disease just affecting the elderly, the Covid-19 study reveals that it’s highly common in children and teenagers as well. With over 1 billion inhabitants, India is the second-most populous country in the world, and one in seven Indians, or over 197 million people, were diagnosed with a mental disease in 2017. In India, there is a significant mental health crisis, with an estimated 56 million people suffering from depression and 38 million from anxiety disorders, according to a World Health Organisation assessment.
Mental illness is one of the primary factors contributing to the rise in young people’s drug use and suicide attempts. From the outside, the new, fast-paced, westernized India appears to be very amazing and developing, but on the inside, the population is suffering due to the rat race, a lack of jobs, competition in top-tier educational institutions, and, most importantly, the idealized lives that are shared on social media. Despite having more intelligent brains than older generations, the tech-savvy generation’s mental health suffers the most.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that mental illnesses account for approximately 15% of all disease conditions worldwide. According to the WHO, India has one of the highest populations of people suffering from mental illnesses, which can range from less serious conditions like schizophrenia to more severe ones like despair and anxiety. The WHO estimates that the economic cost of mental health problems will reach USD 1.03 trillion between 2012 and 2030. The primary causes of this troubling situation are a lack of understanding, awareness, compassion, and stigma associated with those suffering from mental health disorders. A study conducted by The Live Love Laugh Foundation, How India Perceives Mental Health: TLLLF National Survey Report 2018, reveals the prejudice and stigma associated with mental illness in the Indian community. Furthermore, the number of mental health workers in India is far less than the population. In India, there is a critical shortage of medical experts who specialize in mental health care. According to the WHO, India has 0.33 psychiatrists, 0.12 nurses, 0.12 psychologists, and 0.07 social workers per 100,000 people (0.07). Many mental illnesses have enormous gaps in preventive and therapeutic care. For example, less than 5,000 psychiatrists work in the field of mental health in India, a country with a population of over 1.3 billion people.
We also can’t ignore the fact that, while mental illness cases are increasing, so is public awareness of it. The topic of mental health awareness is becoming increasingly popular these days. Numerous organizations and institutions, including the WHO, AIIMS, and others, host seminars with advanced-degreed professors and doctors on the panel. Social media has an impact, but it also helps to raise awareness of mental health issues. Many teenagers are coming in and sharing their problems.
INDIA’S MENTAL HEALTH LAWS
India undoubtedly has the highest rate of mental health issues, and the WHO has named it the nation with the worst depression. After the lockdown, there has been a lot of conversation and understanding about mental health. However, this awareness can only be effective when India’s legislation is properly prepared to address it and support those who are mentally ill. The following are the current laws and rules in India that pertain to mental health: –
- The most fundamental is Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees the right to life and has been amended to include the right to health so that people with mental illnesses can access high-quality care and can live in comfortable conditions in their homes and society.
- Mental Healthcare Act, 2017- This law was adopted in April 2017 and went into effect in May 2018. This law aims to safeguard, advance, and uphold the rights of those with mental illnesses while providing mental healthcare and services, as well as for any issues related to or incidental to those services. The statute mandates the creation of the Central and State Mental Health Authorities to educate medical specialists. Additionally, it requires insurance providers to offer coverage for mental health.
- District Mental Health Program– The 2003 revision of this 1996 law included two significant plans for modernizing state mental hospitals and upgrading the psychiatric wings of medical schools and general hospitals. Its main objectives are to reduce the stigma related to mental health laws, treat and rehabilitate mental patients within the community, provide basic mental health services care to the community, and integrate these with other health services.
- Accredited Social Health Activist is one of the new methods that the government has begun adopting in addition to specific acts and provisions (ASHA). The Indian government’s ministry of health and family welfare has recognized it as a social health activist. According to this model, community health workers assist women and children in finding the right local specialist as well as educating them about mental diseases.
WHY IS MENTAL HEALTH IMPORTANT, AND WHAT CAN WE DO TO IMPROVE IT?
Even though physical ailments cause us more pain, our true willpower comes from our mental health, and losing willpower is far more dangerous because it causes us to lose faith in our abilities. We are never prevented from working, learning, or performing other tasks by bodily pain, but we are unable to focus on anything else when it comes to our mental health. Physical injuries can be treated and recovered with medication but recovering from a mental illness requires patience and interest on the part of the patient. We must alter our lifestyles to treat mental illness because there is no quick fix or surefire treatment that will instantly make it go away. However, there are several methods with the help we can get better, they are as follows:
- Increasing the number of mental health experts– In comparison to its population, India has a relatively low number of mental health professionals. Even among young people, this field is not well-known, and they do not consider careers in it. As a result, it’s critical to help students who want to work in psychiatry or other fields that specialize in mental health. Even the government can implement programs that make it easier for people to enroll in such courses and graduate with the least amount of difficulty.
- Providing greater access to improvements– Mental health conditions such as depression, schizophrenia, and anxiety necessitate the attention and special care of medical professionals. However, because there are so few treatments for these conditions, they are prohibitively expensive, and many people prefer to live with their illnesses rather than seek treatment. To avoid such a snowball effect, the government may raise the cost and accessibility of mental healthcare for all people, regardless of their financial situation. The Healthcare Act, introduced in 2017, is a step in the right direction.
- Awareness in schools and colleges-Given how many young people experience these issues, it is crucial to implement campaigns and programs in schools and universities to let students know they are not alone and that they can get help. These institutions should establish “Safe Spaces” where anyone may go and express their feelings, and the administration should set up counseling sessions to assist people who are struggling with mental health difficulties.
- Meditation– Meditation is one of the most calming and effective ways to enhance your mental health. Meditation soothes our bodies, minds, and souls, which is exactly what mentally ill people require to relax. All ages should be encouraged to practice meditation.
People’s mental health must be addressed in tandem with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Specialized mental health practitioners must be assigned to work immediately. According to India Today, there was a 20% increase in mental health cases in India after the lockdown was implemented in March 2020. Social media and campaigns have undoubtedly increased awareness of mental illness among young people and adults, but we must also keep in mind that these platforms are only available to a small percentage of the population. Individuals are becoming more sympathetic and friendly to those in need, but there are still many people who do not have access to the information that we do. As a result, it is critical to establish pan-Indian dialogues and programs. Because there is “no health without mental health,” treating mental health disorders must be taken seriously and given equal, if not greater, importance than maintaining physical health.
Author(s) Name: Bhavya Sehajpal (OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat)