Indian govt passes the Mental Healthcare Bill 2016, but a lot more needs to be done

According to a study conducted by World Health Organization (WHO) over five crore Indians suffered from depression and

According to a study conducted by World Health Organization (WHO) over five crore Indians suffered from depression and over three crore others suffered from anxiety disorders in the year 2015. India accounted for the highest number of suicides in the world in 2012, as per a report published by WHO in 2014. The report said that every 40 seconds one person commits suicide, globally.

But still mental health remains a taboo topic. Many prefer to suffer in silence rather than expose their condition to friends and family. Recently celebrities came out with accounts fight with depression, of late many movies in hindi as well as other regional languages give account of how individuals have learnt to cope with mental conditions like depression and anxiety.

But a lot more needs to be done. The traditional Indian system of medicine looked at holistic health that involved mental and physical well being. Somehow once that was dismantled, we never could manage to ensure that those who needed help received it.

“Many patients would request not to mention their names in the record or would ask to give normal subscription as they do not want anybody to know that they are consulting a psychiatrist. Also, there are times when psychiatrists or psychologists would be asked to remove name boards from their clinics so that the patients visiting are unaware that he/she is visiting a psychiatrist,” said Dr. Pallavi Arvind Joshi.

Depression is the leading cause of suicide not only among females but also in males. It is important to remove the social stigma attached with mental health and get external help when required. We live in a technology advanced world where the challenges of everyday life are difficult to overcome. Not being able to handle work related stress, meet family expectations or unable to cope up with everyday pressure leads to people taking extreme steps.

Some of the symptoms of depression include change in appetite, prolonged sadness, trouble concentrating, changes in sleeping pattern, lack of activity, loneliness, worthlessness – all symptoms lasting for minimum period of 2 weeks.These are some of the leading causes of suicides among people:

  • Extreme form of depression: Extreme form of depression along with social isolation is one of the major causes of suicide. When people are not able to handle stress, they isolate themselves, think nihilistically which many a times may lead to committing suicide
  • Auditory hallucinations: People suffer auditory hallucinations where they hear false perceptions of sound, voices repeatedly which command them to do self-harm. In such cases a lot of patients make up their mind to commit suicide and it’s important that they get help on time
  • Impulsive behaviour: People with terrible anger and impulsive behaviour are not able to vent their frustration which in many cases may lead to them taking extreme steps
  • Unexpected outcomes: When people with poor coping mechanism are faced with unexpected situations like bad exam results, job insecurity or relationship troubles, they hold on to suicide as the only option
  • Hopelessness: When people turn completely hopeless about their future they think of attempting suicide
  • Heredity: Some people are genetically vulnerable to depression with a family member suffering with depression. There are cases where people suffer from regular episodes of depression because of family history where a family member has attempted suicide in the past

Are Indians happy

The government of India has been working on this aspect of health very closely as well. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had created a policy called the National Mental Health Policy 2016, which was recently passed by the parliament. Now the the Mental Healthcare Bill, 2016, aims to provide provide for mental healthcare and services for persons with mental illness and ensure these persons have the right to live a life with dignity by not being discriminated against or harassed. One of the other key features of this bill is that suicides have been decriminalized. This would help those with these conditions and previous attempts to seek help from qualified professionals, doctors and Councillors. Also the bill stipulates the creation of a mental health board. Finally persons with mental illness now could stipulate how they want their treatment to be conducted and have the right now to nominate representatives for themselves while they undergo treatment. So in many ways this is a positive step in the right direction from a policy perspective. But implementation would be the key to its success.For a quick summary on the bill read this article here. 

“Majority of depressed people attempt a pre-planned suicide where they isolate themselves from people and undertake measures that nobody gets to know about it. Some people would give initial hints where they would distribute their priced possessions to people, complete unfinished tasks or will hint in their conversations with near and dear ones. It is important that we talk about it and provide support to people facing mental trouble. Depression if identified early, can treated and steps can be taken to prevent suicidal tendencies,” said Dr. Pallavi.

These are some ways in which individuals can take measures to prevent depression and anxiety:

  • Regular exercise: Exercising regularly can help people cope with pressure, stress and anxiety. Exercise helps in improved blood circulation in the body, release stress and pressure of day-to-day life. Moreover, regular exercise helps in secretion of positive hormones and boosts the feel-good factor
  • Healthy diet: A balanced diet including two fruit servings and milk is important to be healthy. In some cases, people who suffer from depression tend to eat more. Controlling of eating habits can help them relieve pressure. Try to include plenty of green vegetables like spinach and fruits as it helps ease depression
  • Set goals: When a person is depressed he/she might not feel like doing anything. The feeling of hopelessness can lead the person to take drastic steps. Therefore, it is important that people set small goals and accomplish them to boost a sense of self-confidence.
  • Get in a routine: When you feel, distressed try structuring a routine for yourself. Focus on your routine and follow it regularly. This will help you achieve positive results for yourself and you will feel happy
  • Get enough sleep: Sleep is an important part of our lives. While depressed or worried, people might find it hard to get sound sleep. Therefore, it is important to make some changes in your daily routine like exercising, brisk walking, attending dance classes or pursuing long awaited hobby. Take all distractions out of your bedroom and make sure there is no TV or computer in your bedroom. Try to keep your phone away and go to sleep early

But most importantly get help. Talk to those you trust or visit a professional. Digital is another medium that is helping reduce some of the barriers in the mental health space. Some time ago we covered this startup in Delhi that was working on the digital platform for online consultation with mental health experts. Maybe more initiatives like this can help.

Also Indian Express, gave a list of helplines to help individuals combat depression, here is a list that can come in handy.

On the occasion of World Health Day today, the WHO has gone with the apt theme, “Depression: Lets Talk”. In a sense that is the key to preventing loss of life from a condition that has treatment modalities. Its just a question of spreading awareness and ensuring that treatment in reaching the right people at the right time. In our drive for progress, we see that many have been left behind, crushed by the heavy wheels of unending ambition and desires.

Only time shall tell if this relentless pursuit of progress was worth it, I am sure we shall soon find out for ourselves. Do let me know your thoughts and comments. If there is anyone who needs help and you dont know how to proceed do contact us and we should be able to get them the help required.

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