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Reduce the stigma associated with mental illness

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]ne out of 10 adult Indians has mental health issues, revealed the National Mental Health Survey report. Depression is the most predominant form of mental illness estimated to exist in three per cent residing in urban areas and metropolitan cities like Mumbai and of this 1 in 3 is severely neurotic. Alzheimer’s disease was the most common of severe disorders (54%) followed by vascular dementia (39%). Occurrence of mental disorders in India was 70.5 per 1000 in rural and 73 per 1000 in the urban population. Prevalence of mental disorders in children and adolescents was 9.4 per cent. There were no significant differences among occurrence rates of mental disorders in urban middle class, slum and rural areas, which on an average, hovered around 1.8 per cent of the population. The prevalence of mental disorders among 0-3 year old children was 13.8 per cent, and included a range of syndromes from retardation to ‘defiant behaviour.’

The impact of inadequate mental health treatment can be estimated–though not entirely correlated– by its effect on suicide rates. WHO statistics say the average suicide rate in India is 10.9 for every lakh people. While the lack of open conversation around mental health is a crucial impediment, experts say this contributes to fewer resources and doctors available.

Mental health problems can cover a broad range of disorders, but the common characteristic is that they all affect the personality, thought processes or social interactions. It can be difficult to clearly diagnose, unlike physical illnesses. If you think that you or someone you know have a mental disorder then you must seek medical assistance, there is no point in shying away. In our Indian society, we consider mental health issue as a taboo. Changes in brain chemistry from substance abuse or changes in diet can also cause mental disorders. Psychological and environmental factors such as upbringing and social exposure can form the foundations for harmful thought patterns associated with mental disorders. Only a certified mental health professional can provide an accurate diagnosis of the causes of a given disorder.

The survey, commissioned by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and carried out by the Bengaluru-based National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), was conducted in 12 states. It saw participation of 40,000 Indians, making it the world’s second largest mental health survey. The survey uncovered some startling statistics about the mental health of Indians. It says, 10 per cent of Indians (150 million) have a common mental health problem which could include depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders. One per cent Indians have suicidal tendencies. 10 per cent of men above 18 have issues with alcohol abuse. Less than 25 per cent of those who need help for mental issues are accessing treatment. The survey also exposed how the system is inadequate to deal with the prevailing mental health distress in the country. Urban areas showed more prevalence of mental health issues than the rural areas. When it comes to economic factors, lower income groups and those with low levels of education had a higher prevalence than those who were better off.

The survey showed that mental health issues affect income as the average monthly expenditure for a family which has a person recovering from a mental disorder is between Rs 1,000 to 2,500. The earning capacity of a person with a mental disorder is likely to get affected, it noted. The survey also stated that neurosis and stress-related disorders like phobias and anxieties were twice more common in women than men. Mental health issues often co-exist with other non-communicable diseases either as cause or effect. For example, anxiety with cardio-vascular disorders or depression was found to co-exist with cancer.

The survey stressed on the urgent need to increase awareness about mental health and reduce the stigma surrounding it. It also mentioned that involvement of educational institutions and workplaces can help reach out to those who are unaware and suffering quietly. The vast majority of people with mental health problems are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Most people with mental illness are not violent and only 3 to 5 per cent of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. In fact, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population. You probably know someone with a mental health problem and don’t even realize it, because many people with mental health problems are highly active and productive members of our communities. Even very young children may show early warning signs of mental health concerns. These mental health problems are often clinically diagnosable, and can be a product of the interaction of biological, psychological, and social factors. Half of mental health disorders show first signs before a person turns 14 years old, and three quarters of mental health disorders begin before the age of 24. Unfortunately, less than 20 per cent of children and adolescents with diagnosable mental health problems receive the treatment they need. Early diagnosis and support can help a child before problems interfere with other developmental needs.

This is a very crucial issue. It is high time, one need to keep a tab on personal behaviour and also the stress levels and get it addressed before it becomes chronic.

 (Any suggestions, comments or dispute with regards to this article send us on [email protected])

Dr Vaidehi Tamanhttp://www.vaidehisachin.com
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond The News (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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