Reforming Mental Health in India: Time to Act

Reforming mental health in India would need to focus primarily on a preventive approach towards mental health, rather than simply devoting all energies into interventions, diagnosis and treatment.

When it comes to talking about mental health in India, the reality is that we are hugely under-equipped to handle mental health issues on such a large scale, with almost 800% shortage of mental health professionals in the country. At the same time, there is ample evidence to support the high prevalence of mental illnesses not just in India but worldwide. Therefore, reforming mental health in India would need to focus primarily on a preventive approach towards mental health, rather than simply devoting all energies into interventions, diagnosis and treatment.

First and foremost, it is important to recognize the importance of skill-building, especially for the youth of the country. Channelizing our energies towards shifting the focus on life skills training, and helping all significant stakeholders recognize their significance in today’s contemporary times, especially with objective of equipping the young children as well as adolescents with such life skills is extremely important, for instance media literacy, aggression management, emotional regulation, gender sensitivity, to name a few. We need to equip the youngsters of the country to have the basic skills to recognize and label their own as well as others’ emotions accurately, to be able to have adequate coping mechanisms and be able to navigate through life’s journey with more sensitivity and awareness towards mental health. 

Secondly, the focus needs to shift towards spreading more awareness, sensitivity and education amongst the members of society. Having meaningful conversations about mental health is a good start to this. Further, with more of us stepping up to talk about mental health, and initiate conversations pertaining to mental health, this in itself is a huge step towards the de-stigmatization of mental health in the country. An important factor to be remembered here is to encourage optimum utilization of available means and mediums to spread awareness, one such major medium comprising of the social media and other digital media platforms available at our disposal today. In an attempt to increase accessibility across boundaries, we all need to begin to put in efforts to spread the word, have conversations, and instil sensitivity in people’s minds towards positive mental health. 

Additionally, we need to encourage the training of more professionals, general practitioners, social workers, Anganwadi workers in the identification of mental health problems. This training can ensure that problems are identified early and treatment is received soon to prevent mental health issues from becoming more severe, complex, developing comorbidities and impacting well-being. Utilizing platforms like Digital India can be an important way forward in ensuring that mental health-related information and guidance can reach more people. 

At the same time, what is important to note is that despite the vast gap still remaining to eradicate stigma about mental health, it is such initiatives which add to the promise and hope of a sensitized nation, supporting the cause of mental health being recognized as a priority for all. In my opinion, the need of the hour is to encourage people to have conversations about mental health. The attitude towards reaching out for support and seeking help needs to be strengthened, while at the same time creating an open and sensitized environment that encourages such help-seeking behaviour and acceptance within the society needs to be built. 

Another helpful role could be played by the mental health experts across the country, who not only invest their energies towards an earliest identification as well as interventions towards mental illnesses, but also begin to take time towards building a preventive approach, going beyond the context of their clinical work, focus on awareness generation activities, stepping outside of their chambers to engage and connect with the community. 

As a conclusion, it is more than clear that open-mindedness is essential to fight the roots of stigmatization of mental health, and again, reiterating the importance of having conversations about mental health and mental illnesses cannot be neglected. We all individually need to assume responsibility for making mental health a priority, as it is such universal accountability is essential to help build resilience as well as coping mechanisms towards dealing with psychological distress. Further, there is a need to work towards increasing community awareness to address preventive approaches rather than simply interventions for mental illnesses. Public-private partnerships should be encouraged so that all societal efforts can come together to make a collaborative effort towards the vision of prioritizing mental health services.

Tags assigned to this article:
Mental Health mind Dr Samir Parikh depression anxiety


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