The Uncertain Rise of A New Epidemic
Rhea resigned from her job early December 2019 and decided to take a much needed three months break. To find a way to keep a routine in her life, she invested her time in endorphin boosting activities like dance class, going to the gym and catching up with family and friends. Rhea suffers from mild depression and anxiety. It is unknown to most people in her life due to the fear of the fact that she will be seen as ‘different’. She believes that maintaining a routine is key to helping some control over her life. The lockdown has disrupted this routine. Worse is the fact that now since the economy has been severely affected, Rhea might be on a longer break than she had expected.
The pandemic has proven to be a Pandora’s box. It has exposed the cracks in our society we became accustomed too. One of the tragic after effects of this pandemic has become the deteriorating state of mental health in the country and the current health crisis, economic and political system have aggravated this issue. Lack of access to essential resources, social distancing, unemployment, depletion of financial resources, natural calamities, socio-political unrest in the world, this is a list that seems to have a new item added to it every day.
According to a survey conducted by LocalCircles , a citizen engagement platform, 31% Indians were stressed about job and finances, in the first 45 days of the lockdown, the percentage of people who expected a reduction in their household earnings went from 28% to a drastic jump of 87%.
The defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”. The WHO further elaborates that “people with severe mental health conditions die prematurely — as much as two decades early — due to preventable physical conditions.”
Preventable being the operative word here. With the current situation intensifying even the smallest of discomforts, effective measures need to be taken. Keeping in mind that affordable mental health care is an added cause of concern along with the increasing number of persons battling mental health in the country, the government brought about a few major revisions to the Mental Healthcare Act 1987 in the form of the Mental Healthcare Act 2017.
One of the key features, was the decriminalisation of the attempt to commit suicide as well as now ensuring that insurers make provisions for the treatment of mental illness the same way treatment is available for physical ailments.
The stigma attached to mental illness in India has only added to the rising numbers as this dissuades people from acknowledging the problem and hence seeking treatment. 1 out of 7 Indians are affected by mental illness in varying degrees. This proportion has doubled since 1990.
Acknowledging that we have a serious public health concern on our hands is the first step as well as ways to coerce the government to boost the budget for the implementation of MHCA, especially since in the last Union Budget they cut 20% of its funds. Lastly, being approachable to the issue and educating oneself on mental illness must be seen as the way forward.
*Names have been changed to respect the privacy of the individuals
Originally published at https://www.serein.in on June 11, 2020.