World Health Organization estimated in its latest report that about 7.5% Indians which means over 90 million suffers from mental disorders and by the end of 2020 it could reach to 20%.
The Union Budget 2020-21 released by the administration in February 2021 marked Rs 71,296 crore for Ministry of Health and Family welfare out of which total Rs 597 crores is given to mental healthcare. But surprisingly just 7 per cent of the mental health budget which is Rs 40 crore has been proposed for the National Mental Health Programme (NMHP). Launched by administration in 1982, it particularly focuses on mental health sector deeply and helps people suffering from mental illness specifically the most vulnerable and underprivileged sections of the population. Meanwhile the majority part of the mental healthcare budget is divided among two institutions – Bengaluru based National Institute of Mental Health and Sciences (NIMHANS) received Rs 500 crore and Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi Regional Institute of Mental Health in Tezpur received Rs 40 crore.
Akshada Shinde, a Psychologist by profession is currently working as a Psychological counselor and behavioral training and workshop facilitator with MNCs, NGOs and social welfare organization. While talking to Eat News, she commented on WHO’s estimation, “I believe that as the pandemic has progressed, there have been several measures taken by organizations, authorities and individuals to increase awareness about mental healthcare. This information and awareness have permeated the general population and encouraged them to seek help from a mental health professional to deal with their struggles and give a rise to individuals accessing these services. Hence, I believe that things will not take a turn for worse and instead will improve by the end of the year.“
Mental illness has always been a global challenge but being surrounded by the pandemic from 2020 has added up more to this issue. “The pandemic has definitely affected the mental health of huge segment of the population across the globe in some or the other domain of life, including personal, occupational, financial or health situations. There has been a rise in cases of depression. Obsessive compulsive disorder, health anxiety and various other mental health issues and illness“, said Akshada. She added, “Another dimension to this problem is the rise of domestic violence and sexual abuse cases. This also has led to a rise in mental health issues.“
Mental illness doesn’t rely only on medications neither there is a specific age group that suffers commonly through this. According to Akshada, “I would not say that a particular age group is more prone to mental health problems. Every age group has their own challenges. What differs is that certain age groups have better access to mental healthcare and also show willingness to reach out for help when they realize they need it. Many children, despite of having mental health struggles do not seek help because they are unaware about psychological help whereas many senior citizens and older adults shy away from seeking help due to the stigma associated to it or rigid mindset from their upbringing.“ Many Indians avoid psychological help because of the stigma society has created and choose to suffer all alone.
Akshada Shinde, whose approach to mental healthcare is as a form of holistic care and well being which everyone needs to engage in shared what all problems came along with the pandemic last year that put maximum population on unstable mental position. She said, “Problems like loss of employment, financial losses for businesses, disturbing access to healthcare, children being trapped in front of screens for education and having no access to the outdoor play essential for their growth, individuals who were separated from their loved ones due to lockdown.“ Even famous personalities dealt with mental stress during the start of pandemic as they have also been subjected to all of these things however them opening about it on social platforms is something new, which is an appreciated move. Akshada praised the mental healthcare industry for dealing with large number of people during this time and expanding their services to reach out to as many people as they can. She said, “It is highly commendable that the professionals in this industry have stepped up and make their services accessible and affordable to the vulnerable and marginalized communities as well as to those who cannot afford it.“
“By far, anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental health problems among the Indian population. It is more common among teens, young adults and adults due to the ages-specific challenges and struggles“, said Akshada while indicating Indians mental health.
In 2020, a UNICEF report revealed that countries on an average spend only 2% of their health budgets on mental health, despite of witnessing rise in the cases from last some years. In Akshada’s opinion, “The government in different countries need to highlight the importance of mental healthcare, design better policies to make access to mental healthcare centralized and mandatory in their healthcare design as well as mandate the appointment of mental healthcare professionals at educational institutes, organizations and workplaces as well as fund the mental healthcare wings at hospitals across the country to ensure appointment of more MHPs and relieve the overburdened system resulting from shortage of MHPs.“
“Another vital issue, especially in India, is developing a structure and guidelines for the education in this field in order to ensure quality education which is more application based and catering to the needs of the current times. It is equally imperative to increase the number of educational institutions providing these courses as there is a great shortage of them currently“, she further added.
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