Updated: Jun 20, 2021
Poor mental health can take any form, ranging from the inability to manage stress, overthinking, excessive worry to more serious conditions like depression, schizophrenia or others. Taking care of our mental health as much as we would, of our body’s physical health, is of prime importance. Everything that we do in our day-to-day lives is inextricably linked with several cognitive and behavioural processes. Emotional and mental health is important because it directly impacts our thoughts, behaviours and emotions and this, in turn ensures our performance in everything we do. Being emotionally healthy can promote productivity and effectiveness in activities like work, school or care-giving. It plays an important part in the health of your relationships, allowing you to adapt to changes in your life and cope with adversity.
After taking a look at the above picture and knowing about the detrimental impact poor mental health can have on an individual, the question as to why seeking help to prevent or overcome such disorders not sought still remains one of prime importance.
A major contributor to the non-treatment of these is the stigma associated with it. Societal norms and acceptance can directly or indirectly influence us to great extents.
India, although, as a country is transitioning, societal and gender rules still impact perceived stigma and discrimination of people with mental illnesses. Stigma is related to a display of disgrace and shame which usually draws negative attitudes towards people suffering from mental illnesses. This originates from factors like the lack of mental health literacy and insufficient public display of positive treatment outcomes. Again, this reinforces stigmatization and causes discrimination, this almost works like a vicious cycle. The attached stigma on individuals affected by mental disorders often makes them prone to severe consequences such as significant loss of self-esteem, self-stigmatization, reduced job opportunities and social exclusion.
On the one hand, the technological and scientific advancements of the country would be taking us to the moon, yet on the other hand, thousands of us Indians struggle to go see a therapist even today.
Dearth of Mental Health Professionals However, stigma isn’t the only thing that is causing this. Research says around 80% of Indians suffering from these illnesses do not seek professional help. This could also be because the number of mental health professionals remains abysmally low. According to the recently concluded NMHS, the number of psychiatrists in India remains critically low and varies from 0.05 in Madhya Pradesh to 1.2 in Kerala per lakh population. This leads to a huge treatment gap (the number of people with disease who are not in treatment). In India, this gap was reported to be as high as 83%. The ratio is quite staggering, with just 1 doctor for every 1,00,000 patients leaving a massive number of over 150 million more who need access to therapy.
Lack of Knowledge stemming from other Healthcare Professionals It has also been found across various studies that attitudes of doctors of other specialties and other healthcare professionals also contribute to stigma due to their lack of knowledge and awareness about psychiatry and mental health problems. It is very obvious that the solution to this lies in training other healthcare professionals in mental health. To help the situation, The Medical Council of India (MCI) has prescribed a new syllabus for MBBS to be implemented from 2019 onward which is competency based and gives weightage to psychiatry with other subjects. It is believed that integration with other subjects will reduce stigma and feeling of “alienation” about psychiatry. This can certainly help narrowing the treatment gap of psychiatric disorders in the country.
Breaking the Stigma and Seeking Help Therapy can be sought either through visiting a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist directly in person or through digital or virtual modes of intervention. Online Therapy, is a newer form of treatment, that has been gaining importance recently. Online counselling refers to counselling services through the internet and includes, for example, emails, chat rooms and web cameras. It is easily accessible even to the rural or remote areas where finding traditional therapy could be difficult. It has proven to be more economical