Mental Health in India



Dr. Pradeep Shyam Ranjan
Counselling Psychologist

Every year, on 10th October WHO (World Health Organisation) celebrates ‘World Mental Health Day’. Aim is to raise awareness of mental health issue around the world and mobilize efforts in support of mental health. Mental health has become a major issue for the society from the last few decades. Due to scientific and technological development people are enjoining more physical comfort and luxurious life in compare to their ancestors but same cannot be said about mental peace and satisfaction. World is blindly running behind the power and possessions. Broken families, apartment culture of cities, decreasing religious faith and social support system, heightened emphasis on consumerism and materialistic value system have been made the human life vulnerable for mental disorders. As a consequence we are bound to live with puzzled mind, anxiety, stress, hypertension, depression, suicidal thought, and other mental disorders. According to an estimate by the WHO, mental illness makes about 15% of the total disease condition around the world.

What is Mental Health?

In general, people believe that health is a condition of lack of illness but according to health experts, concept and meaning of health is deeper. It does not merely absence of disease. The WHO defines mental health as “a state of wellbeing, in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community”. Thus, the mental health refers to a broad range of activities directly or indirectly related to mental well-being. The activities include promotion of wellbeing, the prevention of mental disorders, and the treatment and rehabilitation of people affected by mental disorders (WHO, 2012).

Mental Health Illnesses is about a person’s mental and emotional well-being. Good mental health means have a balanced mind, rational thinking, confidence, and self-esteem. A mental illness is a problem that significantly affects how a person perceives, thinks, and reacts. There are various kinds of mental illnesses that vary in degrees and severity. It can be divided into common mental illnesses like depression, stress, phobia, eating disorder etc. and severe mental illnesses like Schizophrenia, clinical depression etc.

Determinants of mental health and mental disorders include genetics, biological, and personality traits along with social, cultural, economic, political and environmental factors. Symptoms of mental illness vary according to type and severity of illness. Common Mental health illness symptoms are:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Change in food habits
  • Avoiding people or social isolation
  • Negative thoughts including a preoccupation with death or suicide
  • Low energy or severely fluctuating energy levels
  • Delusion
  • Hallucination
  • Inappropriate and uncontrollable emotional expressions like excessive anger or sadness for example
  • Suicidal ideation and attempt

Mental Health Status in India

India had a rich background of philosophical concepts and knowledge of balanced life and good health. The time-tested techniques of Yoga and Ayurveda had all the potential to keep mental health issues away from its followers but the blind imitation of western culture left us nowhere. WHO estimates that India has one of the largest populations affected from mental illness ranging from mild stress to sever Schizophrenia? According to WHO, over 90 million or 7.5 percent of the Indian population is suffering with some form of mental illness. According to National Crime Records Bureau, India reported about 381 suicides daily for the year of 2019, marking an increase of nearly 3.4 percent suicide deaths as compared to 2018.

Though, India was one of the first countries in developing world to have adopted a ‘National Mental Health Program (NMHP)’ in 1982. Aim of this program was to address the huge burden of mental disorders and shortage of qualified professionals in the field of mental health. ‘District mental health program (DMHP)’ was added to this program in 1996 to ensure the availability and accessibility of minimum mental healthcare for all. Recently India has passed ‘Mental Health Care Act 2017’. The act aims to safeguard the rights of the people with mental illness, along with access to healthcare and treatment without discrimination from the government. Instead of all these efforts from the government still we are struggling with the lack of awareness, lack of professionals, mental health myths and taboos along with a huge number of mental cases.

Major Problems Associated with Mental Health in India

  1. Ignorance: – Lack of awareness and knowledge is the major cause associated with mental health in India. People use words like ‘mad’ and ‘asylum’ carelessly. They pass derogatory and insensitive comments on the person with mental disorders. Still, people consider mental illness a consequence of bad karma, misfortune or effect of some Bhoot Prêt rather than a disease. These things discourage people to speak up and reach out for help.
  2. Mental Stigma: – Many studies have indicated that stigma is the most prominent issue related to seeking help for mental health problems. People don’t want to take help for mental problems because of self and social stigma associated with mental illness. Thinking of ‘Log kya kahenge’ is very dominating on Indian people’s psyche.
  3. Lack of Professionals: –We have only one psychiatrist per 100000 people. It is very less according to the requirement. Condition is same for psychologists and other mental health professionals.
  4. Fake Professionals: – Because of non-availability of mental health professionals, fake professional have been flourishing in the field. People used to visit them and take their advices and follow them religiously. These fake professionals trap the people with mental illness and make their condition worse.
  5. Low Budget: – Biggest problem to providing appropriate mental health care services and provisions in the country is due to inadequate allocation of fund for mental health. India spends only .05 percent of its health budget on mental health. This percent is very less as per the requirement.

Treatment: – Mental illness can be treated with the blend of medication, psychotherapy, counselling and adequate family and social support. Early identification of such disorders plays important role in the treatment.

Family Support and Mental Health: – Families of people with severe mental disorders can be an invaluable source of support in management of mental disorders. People with mental illness either live with their families or have regular contact with their families. Family members are often the first to recognize behavior changes that accompany a mental disorder. Family offers unconditional love and emotional support that is basic requirement of a person with mental illness. It helps the person in self-management, engage person in a treatment plan and manage medication. Family provides the conducive environment to recovery and maintenance of sound mental health. Though, we don’t have as much strong family system in compare to our ancestors but still our condition is better than many developed countries of the world in this regard.


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