Are We Doing Enough to Tackle Mental Health Issues in the Society?

Mental health is still a hushed topic in India, despite the country having a large number of victims. Although the society seems to be negligent towards this sensitive subject, the media can be used as a tool to increase awareness. A change of overt behaviours is indeed the need of the hour.
By: Kanishka Updated: Jun 16, 2020 13:48 IST
Are We Doing Enough to Tackle Mental Health Issues in the Society?
India has one of the largest populations suffering from mental illnesses.

Mental health is a critical concern worldwide and India is not far behind in sharing it. If we evaluate developments in the field of mental health, the pace appears to be slow. It is rightly said that without mental health we cannot imagine true physical health. Be it autism or intellectual disability in childhood, adult problems like depression, stress, anxiety or dementia in old age we can be a victim to mental health at any age. 

According to an estimate by the World Health Organization (WHO), mental illness makes for about 15% of the total disease conditions around the world. The same estimate also shows that India has one of the largest populations suffering from mental illness. India has also been labelled as one of the most depressed countries in the world by the WHO. 

There can be multiple reasons for India to be standing at such a poor position. The most common one being lack of awareness and sensitivity to the issue. In India, we have recently seen some young Bollywood celebrities and other renowned personalities surrendering to this situation and taking their own lives. The most recent one being Sushant Singh Rajput, who was said to be in a state of depression for the past few months and finally on June 14, he hanged himself to death. 

After the news of Rajput's death broke on social media, people started talking about him being depressed and lonely. While some in society calling the suicide an irresponsible act, some are sympathising with the late actor, saying that he must have gone through a lot of pain prior to taking such a stern step. Though we can never justify suicide or suicidal attempts, we certainly can try to prevent this by just being a little more sensitive and caring towards the people we love. 

In India, people often hesitate to talk about their mental health and share their condition, even with their loved ones. The stigma of tagging people suffering from mental health issues as 'lunatics' restricts them to open up about these issues. The country also suffers from a serious shortage of mental healthcare workforce. 

Apparently, we only talk about mental health and related issues for a few days, when we get to know about a celebrity or a person taking his or her life as a result of depression or stress. But it is only a matter of time, and people forget all about it, and get back to their normal lives. The mental health situation in India requires active policy interventions and resource allocation by the government. There is also a need to reduce the stigma around the subject, and train and sensitise the society towards mental health issues. 

While the government has taken early steps to deal with the problem, there is a continuous need to  educate the society on these issues and make them aware on how to deal with mental illness. The society also needs to be made aware on how to deal with people suffering from a poor mental health. We also need steps to connect the patients with each other by forming a strong peer network, so that they could listen and support each other. 

Role of Media in Dealing With Mental Health Issues

The media also plays a key role in dealing with mental health issues in India. Many movies, serials, and web series often portray a depressed person as the one who has cut himself from society and prefers staying alone. However, the truth is, more often, different than this.

A person suffering from mental illness behaves normally in the early stages of depression. It's only at a later stage that he/she cuts off from society and stops socialising.

Apart from this the media also needs to show some sympathy and responsibility while they are reporting suicide cases, especially of celebrities. Celebrity suicide holds great news value, but it should always be cautious, factual and mourning; and not glorifying or sensational. 

The media should not disturb the immediate family and friends of a victim for a bite of information. The grieving relatives and friends may have fluctuating emotions, and such irresponsible behaviour from media fraternity could lead them getting more anxious and irritated. 

On one hand, social media helps people stay connected but on the other, it might also cause a person to develop anxiety, depression, or inferiority complex. We must always be careful as to what we are posting, and it should not hurt the sentiments of anyone. 

It has been shown that media portrayal can influence one's perception of mental illnesses. Media influence can override personal experiences in relation to how mental illness is viewed. The perpetuation of stigma by the media towards mental illness is an important problem that requires attention. 

At times, media has also provided positive depictions about mental illness. Movies, newspapers, magazines, and newsletters have made attempts to correctly inform and educate people about mental illnesses. So, perhaps all is not lost, but more needs to be done.

How to Deal With Deteriorating Mental Health

There can be two situations when you can find yourself in a situation where you will have to deal with the mental health issue. The first case could be when you are the sufferer and the second one could be when you know a person suffering from this. In both these situations, you will have to work diligently and overcome the issue. 

a) When One Suffers from Mental Health Issues

  • The first thing to do is to speak about it. Talk about your mental health with someone you trust or with someone you believe would understand you.
  • Seek professional advice and follow the therapy to overcome this situation.
  • Doing meditation and yoga can also help you calm your mind. Regular exercise is also another way to reduce stress, anxiety and depression.
  • Stay engaged. Get yourself engaged in activities you find interesting and motivating. 
  • Socialize, move out meet people, make friends, talk to them and keep yourself distracted. 
  • Analyse yourself and the situation and if you feel the situation is not under your control try to seek advice and help from friends or family. 

b) When Someone You Know is Suffering from Mental Health Issues

  • If you happen to come across someone who needs mental support, just lend a listening ear. 
  • You should also always keep your eyes and mind open for things going around you. Maybe someone very close to you might be in need of help. 
  • Instead of mocking and talking behind the back, you should understand the gravity of the problem. If you can't help someone at least don't make fun too. 
  • If you cannot come up with a solution, then just try spending some time with the ailing, and keep them distracted and engaged.

Some Astonishing Facts on Mental Health Issues in India

  • Around 7.5% of the population is affected by poor mental health 
  • Less than 4,000 experts are available in the country to deal with these patients
  • It is estimated that by the end of 2020, 20% of the population would become a victim to a mental illness
  • One out of every five Indians suffers from poor mental health 
  • 50% of the corporates are under chronic stress
  • Suicide is the third major reason for death among the age group of 15-35 years
  • The country only spends around 09.06% of its total health budget on mental health
  • On an average 300 people commit suicide everyday
  • Only one out of ten people struggling with mental health issues receives proper professional care 

The internet and social media have a huge role to play. Social media has the power and can act as a platform to break the taboos and alleviate stigma. Timely intervention and awareness about such issues could indeed save lives.

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