Rahul (name changed) was having a tough time at office. He had worked his way to the top of the finance industry in Mumbai India. He was now a Sr VP at a financial institution and looking forward to a great time steering the entry of a new financial institution in India. But somehow his work load was increasing. What started as a stretch project spanning a few weekends, had consumed him for months. Soon he started dreading the thought of going to office. Even at work his ability to cope with work was reducing, affecting his effectiveness. Soon he was in a cycle, where stress was eating away at his ability to get things done, which contributes to further delays and more stress. Soon panic attacks started hitting him in the office. He would sweat profusely and remain tense throughout the day.

Rahul was lucky that he recognised some of the symptoms and sought medical help. He reached out to a counsellor and started treatment immedicably. He also took a break from work and focused entirely on his wellbeing. Slowly over a period with counselling and medication, Rahul felt better as the incidents of panic attack and their severity started reducing. Before long he was back at a new job, this time with the knowledge that he would have to handle his work better and avoid triggers that might set off the attacks again.

Rahul’s case is not an isolated case. I remember when I joined the technology world, my first job was with this healthcare network. A middle level manager who was my mentor at that time used to warn me about not taking projects with pressure. He said it was just not worth it. Coming from the medical world, we know all about pressure and its physiology that helps us a humans trigger the flight or fight reflex.

According to a report published by the World Economic Forum in 2014 on the impact of non-communicable diseases on Indian economy it is projected that the loss due to lack of mental health would run into trillions.

“The evidence is compelling. India stands to lose $4.58 trillion before 2030 due to NCDs and mental health conditions. Cardiovascular diseases, accounting for $2.17 trillion, and mental health conditions ($1.03 trillion), will lead the way in economic loss.”

So today we stand at the crossroads of healthcare highway, where mental well being is going to cost us more than Diabetes and Cancer put together by 2030. India it seems is one of the most depressed country in the world. We have close to 6.7 % of the population that is suffering from some mental illness. And just like Diabetes there is no specific urban/rural divide on this. So, the common feeling that people in the villages are not affecting by depression is not true. On the other hand, I feel they are worse off as there is limited awareness and facilities available in the rural areas. According to a WHO report done by National Care of Mental Health, suicide rates in India are around 10.7 per lakh of population and they are mostly below 44 years.

What should one do if you felt tings were not ok mentally?

Well for starters contact your physician immediately. Best not to self diagnose. I myself had consulted my physician after the death of my mother and visited a counsellor.

The secondly seek support from family and friends. I had taken my wife into confidence during that time. She had accompanied me to the session.

Finally, no matter how bad it may seem there is no justification for self-harm. If such thoughts to occur, best to take help from one of the many depression helplines. I have a list that I found at a website, not sure if this is current but still a good list to use.

In conclusion, mental health is a clear and present danger for us in India. Rising expectations and the collapse of work life balance has brought us to this situation. I still feel digital can help in specially providing immediate, anonymous counselling. Work is important but not at the cost of life. Do take care and keep smiling.

Dr Vikram Venkateswaran

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