Mental Health Awareness In India
The ancient science like Ayurveda states the importance of mental health. In one of the shlokas defining health, sage Charak states “A person with balanced digestion, balanced physiological factors, and metabolism, balanced excretion, happy heart, senses, and mind only can be called HEALTHY”. It is important to note that the health according to Ayurveda is not complete without the mental health. However, mental health awareness is very low in India. In fact, a lot of prejudices are related to it. If anyone is diagnosed with mental problems, the common crowd directly jumps to the conclusion that the person has gone mad. There is no culture to consult psychologists for mental problems like depression, anxiety, OCD etc. In fact, there is extremely low awareness about mental disorders or the importance of mental health. In a country where so many kids commit suicide, there is no awareness about mental disorders like depression. According to the WH, India has a huge number of undiagnosed mental patients, ranging from diseases like depression, OCD, phobias, manias etc.
Need to Improve Mental Health Awareness
Because of the undiagnosed mental problems, lots people commit suicide or live a substandard emotional life and are not able to reach their full potential. India loses a lot of manpower and productive working hours to the mental problems. The status of awareness about the mental health is grim. However, if we look at the scenario in last 50 years, there were major social health problems like cholera, typhoid, TB, malaria, malnutrition, maternity health earlier. The poor health infrastructure, a dearth of even plain MBBS graduates and low average income was the cause of overall low health awareness. A person can think about mental health, only if he is getting enough food and is not physically ill. With this kind of background, we have made significant progress. Now, with better average income and lifestyle, is the time to bat for improvement in mental health in India.
Concealed Institutions of Mental Health
India is a land of gurus and religions. We are deeply religious people, sometimes to the extent of superstition and irrational rituals. But, this institution is faith has offered free mental health care to the Indian for centuries. Indian religious teachers have introduced mental health techniques like yoga, breathing exercises and meditation to the masses. These tools for mental and physical health are free and accessible for everyone, rich or poor. The religious discourses that talk about forgiveness, harmony, acceptance, patience, and introspection, are the excellent tools for mental health. The confession box in the church is a redeemer of mental health, free and available to all. These tools provide a deep placebo effect even on the body. There are instances of miracle cure in many diseased people. The pillar of mental health was somewhat supported by these social institutions in the absence of formal individualized mental health treatment.
How to Improve Mental Health Awareness
The food is first noticed by the hungry! The mental health awareness can come not by talking about the concepts of mental health. It can come easily by identifying the wide-spread mental problems and telling people the way they can get rid of their problems. Otherwise, the agenda of spreading mental health will miss its target.
For example, depression is a big problem in India and the world. In fact, every human being passes through a phase of depression at least once in his lifetime. Unfortunately, most of the depressed people don’t even know that they are depressed. Therefore, talking about “depression” as a medical term might not be productive in India. One has to talk about the symptoms that the people can easily relate to, like sadness, lack of interest in the social company, aloofness, negative thinking etc. so that the people can walk to understanding depression as a combination of all these symptoms.
The religious and social institution with deep roots in the masses can be very helpful in spreading awareness about mental health. They have a large and devout audience which is sure to accept and absorb the message about mental health. They can also offer free mental health services to the masses. Dedicated Ngo can go a long way to improve mental health awareness.
As for the Govt., a lot can be done but it is not the ideal institution in India to expect anything from.
One feasible way to improve mental health awareness is to incentivize the education industry to produce more graduates in psychology. If we take the example of the oral health awareness in India, it has increased exponentially in the last decade, as more and more dentists passed out each year from the ever-increasing dental colleges. All these dentists eventually started their business and indirectly increased the availability and affordability of the oral healthcare facilities. This self-propagating business model can work for mental health awareness as well. An increased number of psychologists will automatically spread the mental health awareness. This is a complete solution, as what is the benefit of increasing the mental health awareness when there are not enough number of specialists to solve the mental problems.
Corporate hospitals can play a big role in spreading mental health awareness as the niche of middle-class people and above, that they cater to are educated enough to appreciate the information about the mental disorders and can spend enough for mental health disorders. This awareness can easily trickle down to the lower masses as they tend to copy the higher classes.
Movies, Tv programs and newspapers can do an excellent job in spreading the mental health awareness in a fun way. Movies like Shutter Island, Karthik calling Karthik, Bhoolbhulaiya can go a long way in actually impressing in the minds of people that mental disorders are also natural phenomena like the other physical disorders and can be treated.
Problems with High Mental Health Awareness
This is a far-fetched idea but too much awareness about mental health might lead people to self-diagnose and practice self-treatment. Awareness of being afflicted with depression might make a depressed person even more depressed. However, we are far from that post, so the topic is currently not relevant.
As more and more people have more disposable income and more susceptibility to lifestyle disorders and mental disorders, our society is finally graduating to a higher standard of healthcare. It is important to spread mental health awareness so that the mentally sick people are not judged and side-lined by the society. I hope that very soon we will have a good level of mental health awareness and enough infrastructure to cater to the sick!