“1-800-273-8255”, and where we went wrong

022 2754 6669. This is the national suicide helpline number in India. Unlike Countries like USA and UK, in India we don’t have a govt funded or backed national mental Healthline service. The number above is by an organization called AASRA, which is a part of Befrienders Worldwide/Samaritans and is a non-religious, non-political and non-sectarian organization, registered as a Public Charity.

As of 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that nearly 56 million Indians, that is, 4.5 percent of India’s population, suffer from depression, and that’s not even counting those who suffer from anxiety disorders including panic attacks, phobias, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Where we are going wrong

There are only about 50 mental hospitals in the country, and most of them are in not up to the standards. Lacking infrastructure and treatment facilities push people to Visit private clinics and sustain the treatment, which is usually a long, drawn-out affair, is an expensive proposition for most families.

According to a report, we and our countrymen in this country potentially face a treatment gap of 50-70 percent for mental health care. The state of mental health care in our country coupled with government’s apathy is a cause of great worry. Sure, during this lockdown MoHFW did release an audio visual on “managing mental stress and depression during lockdown”, but that won’t solve the bigger problem now, will it?

Data shows the critical number of mental healthcare professionals in India; around 4000 psychiatrists and just some 1000 clinical psychologists. And a large number of them are situated in Cities. The WHO reports that there are only three psychiatrists per million people in India, while in other Commonwealth countries, the ratio is 5.6 psychiatrists for the same. By this estimate, India is short of about 66000 psychiatrists.

Our Mental health care accounts for about 0.16 percent of the total Central Health Budget, which is less than that of Bangladesh, which spends around 0.44 percent. Most developed nation’s expenditure on the same amounts to an average of 4 percent.

“The National Mental Health Survey of 2015-16, conducted by NIMHANS, estimates that 13.7 percent of the Indian population above the age of 18 suffers from mental morbidity, requiring active intervention. It also suggests that one in every 20 Indians suffers from depression and nearly one percent of Indians suffer from high suicidal risks. A survey conducted by AIIMS in collaboration with WHO across 11 centres in the country, involving 3,000 people from each city found that 95 percent of those with mental-health problems remain deprived of treatment due to stigma, shame and getting shunned from societies.”

This is worrying. Very much Worrying, for a country with one of the largest youth population, as it causes difficulties in concentrating, decision making ability and remembering, and thus causes significant impairment in work productivity.

This is damaging to the economy.

“A World Economic Forum-Harvard School of Public Health study estimated that the total global impact of mental disorders in terms of lost economic output will amount to $16.3 trillion between 2011 and 2030. In our country though, mental illness is estimated to cost $1.03 trillion (22 percent of the economic output) between 2012-2030.

Mental illness is experienced by a significant portion of the population, yet are either looked down upon or trivialised. We adopt enforced silence and social isolation. Recognising and acknowledging it, rather than denying and is enforcement we need.

What we need to do instead

We need healthcare workers who are trained and to raise mental health awareness and provide. We need our families to understand the consequences of ignoring mental health. We need more mental health professionals.

Counselling will make a profound difference and build resilience to cope with despair.

"We need more counsellors in our educational facilities. The vast number of people who are suffering from depression, primarily, are in fact students. According to the NCRB data shows that 10,159 students died by suicide in 2018, an increase from 9,905 in 2017, and 9,478 in 2016."

Simply blasting “1-800-273-8255” (Logic) on speakers and singing “You gotta live right now” just won’t help. Also putting up WhatsApp and Instagram statuses offering help whenever someone famous suffers from depression and kills self, won’t help. We have to be more proactive than that.

#ForceThemToAct #FundTheHealthWorkers #Logic