- Various surveys register positive trends in the attitude towards mental health in India.
- But, the Indian mental health sector still remains under-developed.
In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, skyrocketing rates of mental illness and suicides appear to fuel the changing attitude towards mental health in India.
However, research shows that progress in mental health service delivery has been slow due to the prioritization of physical health over mental health, inadequate funding, understaffing, and lack of mental health perspective in leadership. For instance, there are approximately 0.75 psychiatrists for every 100,000 Indians suffering from mental disorders.
Nonetheless, one study reveals that India shifting gears in the ‘conversation’ around mental health means “combating stigma, enhancing prevention, ensuring early recognition, and also stimulating simple and practical interventions within the community.”
This rising tide of mental health awareness is acknowledged by a large number of nationwide surveys, including The Wellcome Global Monitor: Mental Health and LiveLoveLaugh’s foundation report, How India Perceives Mental Health.
According to the findings, the rate of attitudinal change towards mental health interventions has jumped from 54% to 92%.
There is also a dramatic shift in the general perception of mental illness. A significant majority of Indians (approximately 65–68%) now believe that individuals suffering from mental illness can go on to lead healthy and normal lives, such as working jobs, building meaningful relationships, etc.
The studies also note obstacles to progress, such as gaps in understanding complex mental disorders (like anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, etc.), lack of mental health literacy, poor research, and myths about mental illness. The popular notion that mental disorders can be scientifically explained but not treated also impedes such progress.
Therefore, given the situation, simply changing the “Indian conversation” of mental health may not be enough. Experts recommend that the country must respond better with openness and acceptance and harness the benefits that science and technology have to offer in changing the Indian discourse of “madness”.
Deepika Padukone, actress and founder of LiveLoveLaugh, said “It is absolutely critical that we as a society work together towards normalizing the need to seek support for mental illness.”
This is the only way India can improve the well-being of its own citizens and contribute significantly to global health actions related to mental health.