Why we need to focus on mental health

Source: The post is based on the article “Why we need to focus on mental health” published in The Indian Express on 28th January 2023. 

Syllabus: GS2- Issues related to the development and management of health 

Relevance: Issues related to mental health 

News: The article explains the prevalence of mental health and its impacts.

What are some facts and statistics related to mental health? 

Suicide rates in India are amongst the highest when compared to other countries at the same socio-economic level. According to WHO, India’s suicide rate in 2019 was at 12.9 per 1,00,000 population.  

Suicide has become the leading cause of death among those aged 15–29 in India. 

Across the world, the prevalence of some mental health disorders is consistently higher among women as compared to men. 

The pandemic has further exacerbated the problem. According to a study published in Lancet, it might have increased the prevalence of depression by 28% and anxiety by 26% globally between 2020 and 2021. The large increases have been noted among younger age groups. 

How social media is exacerbating stress and mental ill health for young people? 

Social media detracts from face-to-face relationships, which are healthier.  

It reduces investment in meaningful activities. It erodes self-esteem through unfavourable social comparison. 

What are the impacts of poor mental health? 

It is a leading cause of disability globally. It is closely linked to poverty in a vicious cycle of disadvantage. People living in poverty are at greater risk of experiencing mental health conditions.  

On the other hand, people experiencing severe mental health conditions are more likely to fall into poverty through loss of employment and increased health expenditure 

Stigma and discrimination often further undermine their social support structures. This reinforces the vicious cycle of poverty and mental ill-health.  

What are issues related to the treatment of mental health? 

Currently, only 20-30% of people with mental illnesses receive adequate treatment. One major reason for such a wide treatment gap is the problem of inadequate resources 

Less than 2% of the government health budget is devoted to mental health issues.  

There is a severe shortage of mental health professionals. According to one estimate, the number of psychiatrists in the country is less than those in New York City. 

What is the way forward to overcome the challenges related to mental health? 

We need a “whole-of-society” approach for the mental health of our people. This should be based on the following four pillars- 

Remove deep stigma around mental health issues: It prevents patients from seeking timely treatment and makes them feel shameful, isolated and weak. 

Make mental health an integral part of the public health programme: This will reduce stress, promote a healthy lifestyle, screen and identify high-risk groups and strengthen mental health interventions like counselling services.  

Special emphasis will need to be given to schools. In addition, we should pay special attention to groups that are highly vulnerable to mental health issues such as victims of domestic or sexual violence, unemployed youth. 

Create a strong infrastructure for mental health care and treatment: Substantial investments will be needed to address the gaps in the mental health infrastructure and human resources. 

Mental health services should be made affordable: All government health assurance schemes, including Ayushman Bharat, should cover the widest possible range of mental health conditions.  

Similarly, the list of essential medicines includes only a limited number of WHO-prescribed mental health medications.  

A comprehensive review of these policies will be needed to ensure that financial and other barriers do not prevent people from using services or push them into poverty. 

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