The overall well-being of a person depends on their mental health. Depression, anxiety, and neuropsychiatric disorders are among the mental illnesses that account for 18.5% of the world's disease burden.

The covid-19 pandemic has brought to light that, in addition to having a significant financial impact, poor mental health renders communities incapable and reduces the nation's productivity. A significant barrier to the development of mental healthcare in India is the lack of adequate infrastructure, accessibility, and awareness. This issue needs to be taken very seriously.

Status of Mental Healthcare 

  • Emotional, psychological, and social well-being are all parts of mental health. It affects cognition, perception, and behavior. It also influences how someone responds to stress, interacts with others, and makes decisions.
    • Any mental health problem significantly impacts a person's cognition, perception, and behavior.
    • The National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences reports that more than 80% of the population in India lacks access to mental healthcare services for various reasons.
  • Initiatives taken by the Indian government
    • National Mental Health Program (NMHP): In response to a high prevalence of mental disorders and a lack of mental health professionals, the government established the National Mental Health Program (NMHP) in 1982.
      • To provide community mental health services at the level of primary healthcare, the District Mental Health Programme (DMHP) was also introduced in 1996.
    • Mental Health Act: Every affected person has access to mental healthcare and treatment from government institutions as part of the Mental Health Care Act of 2017.
      • The impact of Section 309 IPC has been greatly diminished, and suicide attempts are now only punished under special circumstances.
    • Kiran Helpline: A 24/7 toll-free helpline called "Kiran" was introduced by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in 2020 to offer mental health support.
    • Manodarpan Initiative: During the Covid-19 pandemic, it was designed to offer psychosocial support to students, teachers, and family members.
    • MANAS Mobile App: The Government of India introduced MANAS (Mental Health and Normalcy Augmentation System) in 2021 to promote mental health among all age groups.

Issues Associated with Mental Health 

  • Poverty Adding Vulnerability: Deprivation and poverty are the two most strongly linked to mental disorders. Low education levels, low household incomes, and a lack of access to basic amenities increase the risk of developing a mental illness.
  • Women at Spotlight: Women who work are more likely to experience mental health problems due to a variety of social stigmas, gender inequality, lack of access to education, mobility restrictions, and additional household responsibilities as a result of being conditioned to be skilled caregivers.
    • A third of all Indian women are at an increased risk of developing anxiety disorders and depression, according to the National Family Health Survey of 2019–2021, which also revealed that 30% of women in India experience gender-based violence regularly.
  • Climate change, disasters, and mental health: Every year, millions of people worldwide are impacted by disasters, which can be traumatic.
    • Numerous studies found that disaster survivors were more likely to experience short-term and long-term mental health effects, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and suicide.
    • By amplifying disaster events, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that rapidly escalating climate change poses a severe threat to mental health and psychosocial well-being.
  • Education System and Mental Health: A large percentage of students in India exhibit symptoms of mental disorders due to the lack of emphasis on individualized and holistic educational structures. Unbelievably, in India, students take their own life once every hour.
    • Children and young adults have complex emotional ecologies that are easily influenced by their surroundings, such as parental pressure for good grades, social media use, and relationship problems, all of which significantly negatively impact their mental health.
  • Discrimination and Negligence: Patients with mental illnesses are particularly susceptible to discrimination, physical and sexual abuse, and wrongful confinement, even in their own homes, which is worrisome and a flagrant violation of their human rights.
    • People with disabilities, in particular, face various structural and ideological issues that are largely unrelated to their limitations.
      • They are subjected to abuse and neglect more frequently than the general population, reducing their ability to participate in daily life.
  • Lack of Awareness: Most patients with mental illnesses do not receive treatment because they are unaware that they have a serious disease. Many patients are denied care due to a lack of knowledge about the signs and symptoms of mental illness, the stigma and myths associated with it, and the lack of information regarding the availability of treatment options and potential advantages of seeking treatment.
  • Lack of Mental Health Resources: The main obstacles to addressing the issue of mental health in India include a lack of affordable diagnostic tests and a lack of readily accessible treatment.
    • Psychiatrists (0.3), nurses (0.12), psychologists (0.07), and social workers (0.07) all make up a very small portion of the mental health workforce in India (per 100,000 people).
    • Delays in diagnosis and treatment result from local beliefs in supernatural forces.

Steps to take 

  • Building a more inclusive and resilient healthcare infrastructure that incorporates mental health aspects with an emphasis on social health in general, access to affordable, high-quality care based on human rights, and a psychosocial approach is necessary instead of adhering to the conventional biomedical paradigm.
    • Additionally, there is a need to improve the physical infrastructure and strengthen human resources by hiring and training more qualified health professionals, particularly in rural areas.
  • Mental Health Awareness: Through targeted awareness-raising and outreach through campaigns utilizing celebrities and social influencers, it is imperative to destroy the stigma associated with mental illness.
    • In order to further engage local communities and governments, it is also necessary to mobilize NGOs' support for rural areas.
  • Expansion of Yoga and Meditation Centres: Yoga and meditation expansion would also be a relief.
    • With the help of community-based organizations and civil society, their capacities can be increased, but the government must vigorously support these efforts.
  • Concerted Suicide Prevention Strategy: A "Concerted Suicide Prevention Strategy" is required in India at the federal, state, and local levels.
    • Mentor-mentee programs can be implemented at the school level to let students communicate freely with their mentors and shield them from the pitfalls of mental illness.
  • De-Stigmatizing Mental Health: If the emphasis is shifted from viewing mental health as a problematic idea to the social responsibility of enhancing health literacy, establishing self-help groups, and offering emotional support to the concerned, this apathy can be lessened.