One in six Indians suffer from mental health issues, and are unaware of it

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  • One in every six people in India suffer from some form of mental health issues, says a recent study of “Access to care, awareness and attitudes towards mental health in India.”
  • Over half of the Indians are unlikely to recognise the symptoms of mental disorders and people suffering from mental illness.
  • Lack of awareness explains misconceptions on mental disorders in India. Merely 8% of the respondents knew if their health insurance covers mental health.
  • India witnesses nearly 28% of global suicides despite accounting for 18% of the population worldwide.
As India observes the World Mental Health Day on October 10, a recent study of “Access to care, awareness & attitudes towards mental health in India” says that nearly one in six people suffer from some form of mental health issues.

Yet, the country lacks awareness on mental health and related disorders. Over half of the Indians are unlikely to recognise the symptoms of mental disorders and people suffering from mental illness, shows the analysis from the study published by Cosmos Institute of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences (CIMBS), and World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH).

“Surprisingly, even amongst those who had close interactions with a person with mental illness, 35% thought mental health issues were uncommon suggesting conversations on mental illness remain taboo. This could possibly be explained by 41% of those who had a person with mental illness amongst their near and dear ones feeling that other people were insensitive and likely to ridicule a patient,” said Dr Sunil Mittal, who was the principal investigator of the study.
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The National Mental Health survey of 2016 predicts that roughly 13.7% lifetime prevalence of mental illness among Indians. And, over 150 million are in need of active intervention. However, merely one in every four individuals felt that the government provided adequate support to persons with mental illness.

“The nature of the caregivers’ role is invisible and complex, much like mental illness itself. The entire journey is laden with fears, insecurities, trauma, isolation and dysfunctionality. To add to it, the new laws do not cater to the concerns and needs of caregivers and their voice,” said Mitali Srivastava, Senior Psychologist at CIMBS.

Lack of awareness and suicides

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Even when they aware, Indians do not know how to cure themselves. Merely 8% of the respondents knew if their insurance covered mental health.

India witnesses nearly 28% of global suicides despite accounting for 18% of the population worldwide. Yet, almost 30% people did not consider suicide to be associated with mental illness — which explains the less likelihood of intervention.

“There is a need for well-thought guidelines for a participatory approach to encourage non-governmental and private entities, and address concerns regarding medico-legal issues in mental health service delivery. Without which, it is difficult to bridge the huge treatment gap that exists today. Also, innovation and adoption of technology like tele-medicine need to be promoted,” said lawyer Mrinal Kanwar.

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The survey analysed responses from over 10,000 individuals across seven states in India.

See also:
India stopped counting suicides 3 years ago — now, it’s the worst in all of South East Asia

Fear, self-loathing and stress affect students appearing for competitive exams
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