Let’s Address Mental Health
| Dr. Anjum Nazir Qureshi - 01 Feb 2023

Mental health has become a global concern. It is a problem for everyone. Millions of people around the world are suffering from it. But there are very few who speak about it. The cases of mental illness have increased drastically after the Covid pandemic. There has been an increased focus on mental health issues after the pandemic.  According to a report by WHO one in every three Indians is suffering from depression.  A recent survey by India’s National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) says that 150 million Indians need services for mental illness but only 30 million have received support. Treatment of mental health has become a necessity. In this article, we will discuss the four factors awareness, acceptance, availability, and affordability which should be addressed to deal with the increasing mental health cases.
 Awareness:  The first challenge that is observed while dealing with mental health is a lack of understanding. People keep themselves informed about physical health. They are aware of the primary symptoms when they know they have a health problem. They know which doctor they should visit. For example, everyone is aware that if a person is suffering from a toothache he should visit a dentist,, or if he is having symptoms like dizziness or weakness, it is time to go to a general physician. People are aware of the symptoms and also the category of health professionals. When it comes to mental health, very few realize that they are suffering from some kind of disorder and they need treatment. If they realize it they do not know whom to seek for help. The stereotypes of society cease them from asking for help. Mental health is a stigma in society. People don’t realize that it is a health condition. It is another kind of disorder that can happen to everyone.  Along with the awareness of symptoms of mental health issues, professional help we need to raise awareness in society to remove the stigma associated with it.
 Acceptance: The second issue that is observed in this regard is acceptance.  Sometimes, either the health care professionals or others who know about mental health suggest people visit a counselor or a psychologist for help. Though people realize they are experiencing some problem, something that is not getting cured or something that they are not able to explain, they do not accept that it is an issue of mental health. As soon as they get a suggestion to seek the advice of a counselor, they feel people are misguiding them. But if someone is suggested to meet a doctor for physical illness, they will reach out at the earliest. There are instances when doctors are not able to diagnose a disease of the patient. They suggest medicines, and do different tests and scans but are not able to find the exact cause of the disease. In such cases, doctors suggest visiting a psychiatrist or psychologist. The next second the people start doubting the doctor. They do not accept. Once a person comes to know he is experiencing symptoms of mental health he should not hesitate to accept it and seek help.
Availability: The third challenge we need to address is the availability of mental health professionals and services. It is very hard to find a psychiatrist, neurosurgeon, and psychologist in rural parts of India. A person living in a rural area has to travel to the city for treatment. Mental health professionals are available in cities but are very few. There is a crisis in the human workforce. Several organizations are working on the awareness of mental health. The awareness programs are helpful. People know about it and try to go for treatment. The availability of mental health professionals becomes a limitation. Though someone realizes that he needs help, he is not able to find the right person. Looking at the current situation the number of psychiatrists and psychologists should be increased. More people should be encouraged to learn these courses and at the same time, the number of institutes offering these courses should be increased. Research should be encouraged to develop affordable treatment. Subsidies and grants should be provided for starting clinics for mental health.  The second problem associated with this problem is people are not aware of the availability of mental health doctors. Generally, we try to approach our friends or colleagues to get information when we need some doctors. You will receive many suggestions from people. On the other hand, if you try to find out a doctor who can treat you for mental health, there are few possibilities of receiving responses from others. As mental health is not considered to be a problem people don’t give importance to it. They do not keep updates about the related treatment and services. In severe cases, till someone finds a mental health treatment, it is too late.
Affordability: In India health care services are unaffordable. The same applies to mental health. Many people face financial burdens due to mental health treatment. Diagnostic tests and medicines are expensive. People from moderate families cannot afford the tests. So they don’t go for the tests and receive treatment. Few Government health schemes cover mental disorders. The procedures for this scheme should be made more accessible and awareness regarding it should be increased. Recently, it has been made mandatory for insurance companies to cover mental illness. The schemes should be improved to reduce the financial burden.
 It is time to work together and help those who suffer in silence. Help to overcome the stigma and prioritize mental health.


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