The Guardian carried an article recently that COVID posed the biggest mental health challenge to mankind since the Second World War. Why is it that we don’t take this more seriously? Why do we not bother about the Mental Health pandemic?
Everyone from young children to older adults have been impacted, Governments have been imposing lockdowns and several restrictions but very little has been done to help and support those suffering from mental health issues during this period.Now some may wonder why I’m writing about this, the reason is very simple, mental health is closely linked to how a society functions. If we want to have a society that is happy, prosperous and rich, we first need to start taking care of our people and that’s why this is important to all of us. We can’t have a society free of poverty, inequality, lawlessness and hatred if we don’t have a society that is happy.
How do we go about this? We first need to start recognising that mental health is important. As bad as suffering from COVID is, suffering from a mental health issue is equally bad. And like COVID, this too can lead to deaths, loss in productivity, overburden health systems and so on. Luckily, unlike COVID, the mental health pandemic does not need a vaccine. It needs understanding.
Governments have to start taking this more seriously. Insurance companies have got to start covering therapy under insurance packages, schools and colleges have got to start having more counsellors and therapists, psychology and research in psychology needs to be given more importance in our national discourse. We need more awareness, more resources and more people to start talking about this. Only then can we collectively beat this.
The mental health crisis could have a long term impact on our world. The more we try to deny it and escape from it, the more it will start to haunt us in the future. To such an extreme that economies and industries could suffer if we don’t take action right now. What is the point of having progressed so much if we aren’t going to take care of our very basic needs? Unless we have a system which is in place, there won’t be a conclusion to this.
It’s easy to say that once the COVID19 pandemic is over, the mental health pandemic will end as well and there won’t be any more issues but this is a factually wrong statement. Experts have come on record saying that our mental health crisis is here to stay and unlike the COVID 19 Pandemic, Governments aren’t taking any action to stop it.
The number of people suffering from mental health issues are huge, the world is sick. Yet, we have little to nil support systems to help those suffering from mental health issues. Students especially are more prone to mental health issues, the suicide rate among young adults has sky rocketed in recent months and such numbers need to start alarming us.
Let us be very clear that the mental health crisis is a political and economic one as much as it is a social and medical one. As much as access to therapy and treatment will help those with mental health issues, it is not the only step that needs to be taken. Clean water, housing, jobs, economic well being, peace and less crime are all variables that will go a long way in helping those suffering from mental health issues. No one ever talks about how wars and killings across the world have a negative impact on the mental health of generations of people. No one talks about the high rates of alcoholism, drug abuse and suicide among those who are at the bottom rung of our society. But let us be clear that economics and social status is not the only variable that determines whether a person would get a mental health issue. EVERYONE of us are vulnerable, some more than others but just like a common cold, we too can get it. This is exactly the reason why more needs to be done to tackle this issue. The same way we went all guns blazing against COVID, we need to have an all hands on deck approach to tackle the Mental Health Pandemic that is looming over us. It’s now or never.
Let’s look at some frightening statistics about the Mental Health Pandemic
- In India, per 1,00,000 population, there are (0.3) psychiatrists (0.07) psychologists and while the desirable number is above 3 per cent for psychiatrists and psychologists. (The Tribune)
- The National Mental Health Survey of India (2015-2016) had estimated that nearly 7.3 per cent of Indian adolescents (13-17 years) suffer from mental health problems.(The Hindu) Safe to say that this number would have gone up in recent months
- Young person’s suicide charity said calls rose 27% at start of second lockdown
- A survey of 16,000 locked-down Brits by Mind discovered half of adults felt their wellbeing had worsened during 2020, with many experiencing mental health problems for the first time.
- Antidepressant use in England soars as pandemic cuts counselling access (The Guardian)
- The American Medical Association (AMA) recently reported that more than 40 states have seen an increase in opioid related deaths
- WHO also estimates that about 7.5 per cent Indians suffer from some mental disorder and predicts that by the end of this year roughly 20 percent of India will suffer from mental illnesses. According to the numbers, 56 million Indians suffer from depression and another 38 million Indians suffer from anxiety disorders.
- According to World Health Organisation, the burden of mental health problems is of the tune of 2,443 disability-adjusted life years per 100,000 population, and the age-adjusted suicide rate per 100,000 population is 21.1.
- In low- and middle-income countries, more than 75% of people with mental, neurological and substance use disorders receive no treatment for their condition at all.
The numbers are long and the numbers are worrying. And this is why we call for countries and governments to immediately address the MENTAL HEALTH PANDEMIC. Action needs to be taken and action needs to be taken soon. We can’t have a world where so many people are sick and suffering on a daily basis. We need more investments in Mental Health resources, we need more psychological research, we need more information and infrastructure but above all we need more understanding. We cannot have a generation of children who are depressed and anxious about their futures, we cannot have so many people living and suffering from various mental health issues. Governments need to wake up. The facts are on the table, it’s clear and concise.