Approximately 2 million Indians have cancer, 35 million people have chronic asthma, 51 million people have diabetes, and at least 150 million people are affected by mental illness. That makes mental disorders more common than diabetes or asthma. Yet, why is it that people are still often afraid to discuss it?
Despite the high number of people who need care, mental health has always been sorely neglected in India. This could be because the topic is rooted in social stigma, taboos and myths. Poor awareness about the symptoms of mental illness and the lack of available mental health services have resulted in a massive treatment gap. The mindset of many Indians also doesn’t help, as is evident from the following charts on the attitude of people towards mental health and inclusion.
World Mental Health Day is observed on the 10th of October every year to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilise efforts in support. The day provides an opportunity for all stakeholders to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide.
The need of the hour is to sensitise and educate individuals about the signs and symptoms of mental disorders, and destigmatize the act of seeking support from a specialist or opening up to a loved one. We don’t have to keep mental health a secret. It’s time to start a conversation.