Are We Making Progress in Mental Health?


10th October 2012. World Mental Health Day. This day sought to bring new developments, changes and to make strides in the field of Mental Health in the world. But how much has been achieved? Is it enough? Do we need to do more?

Since two decades, the World Federation of Mental Health supported by the World Health Organization has taken up the ardent task of bringing in awareness about Mental Health, just until it reaches equivalence with Physical Health. The entire world still stays behind when it comes to acceptance on Mental Health. The cultural system of our country creates differences and causes stigma which disables our countrymen to make progress. No matter how much effort is put in, mindsets are difficult to change and this is a very challenging task for any Government or recognized body.

Stigma is not the only problem we face. Early identification of symptoms, care and recovery, poverty and the need for intervention and treatment are also long term issues faced by the people in our country. Most countries take steps to promote Mental Health and India is not too far behind. Far behind is of course the stigma attached to it.

Stress and depression are the most common disorders given the lifestyle of the working population in our country. Class and economic status is no barrier. The rich are not getting richer, but are succumbing to the increasing economic changes whereas the poor are struggling to meet both ends. This poses a high risk for developing the most common disorders such as stress, depression, anxiety and sleep disorders. What is more thought provoking is that these disorders are seen as a part of the lifestyle of the common man and less as a risk to livelihood.

The much neglected segment of Mental Health is starting to gain importance now. Anindita Paul, director of Sanjivini Society for Mental Health has said in an interview that the social awakening towards mental diseases and their cure has finally started to come to India.

The present data on the severity of Mental Health is shocking. Thegaps in treatment in terms of severe mental disorders is 50% whereas for common mental disorders is 90%. This is a significantly alarming percentage of people who are unaware of the illness and treatments. About 77% of people with mental health problems never consult a professional. And the most alarming data of all – about 60 to 70 million suffer from Severe and Common Mental Disorders!

Mental health is a big part of our lives and yet it is pushed out of the door as something that doesn’t matter. Our culture teaches us not to express our emotions from an early age and that only good emotions are shared. This restricts our emotional well being and creates an inability to share and accept problems with others, especially mental health professionals.

It’s time to get out of the box! It’s time to create change and give ourselves a chance to heal, a chance to grow and a chance to create new opportunities for ourselves!

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