MENTAL HEALTH: IT’S MORE THAN THE MERE LACK OF MENTAL DISORDER

Shefali Gupta
Depression

25 Jan 2021
MENTAL HEALTH: IT’S MORE THAN THE MERE LACK OF MENTAL DISORDER

Mental health involves our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also determines how we handle stress, relate to others, and make life choices. Several factors such as genes or brain chemistry, Individual Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse, family environment might lead to mental health issues. Lack of awareness limits to empathize and understand an individual with mental illness.

It is a sensitive theme and needs a lot of correct information to deal with it in current society. Currently A major hurdle for integrating mental health initiatives into global health programs and primary healthcare services is a lack of consensus on the meaning of mental health. There is little agreement on a general definition of ‘mental health’ and currently there is widespread use of the term ‘mental health’ as a euphemism for ‘mental illness’. It can be defined as a state of being that includes the biological, psychological, or social factors which contribute to an individual’s mental state and ability to function within the environment. For example, WHO includes realizing one's potential, the ability to cope with normal life stresses, and community contributions as core components of mental health. ‘Prevention strategies’ in mental health areas primarily aim to decrease the rates of mental illness/disorders on the other hand mental health ‘promotion strategies aimed at improving mental health that gives primary focus to spread mental health awareness.

Awareness is needed to understand that mental health is not only for those who suffer from a mental disorder. And that’s why WHO defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Every individual has mental health and that includes subjective well-being, perceived self-efficacy, autonomy, recognition of one’s intellectual and emotional potential. No individual or group is immune to mental illness, it affects society as a whole and not just a particular group or isolated segment. Unfortunately, the risk is higher among the poor, homeless, the unemployed, victims of violence, children and adolescents, abused women, and the neglected elderly. Each individual mental, physical, and social health is closely interwoven. As our understanding of this interdependent relationship grows, it becomes more apparent that mental health is crucial to the overall well-being of individuals and society as a whole. Unlikely, in most parts of the world, mental health is not given the same attention as physical health. Rather, they have been largely ignored or neglected.

A Lancet Psychiatry study finds that, as of 2017, over 197 million—or one in seven—people in India suffered from a mental health disorder, a sharp increase from the 150 million reported in the 2016 National Mental Health Survey. At 4.7% in 2017 the contribution of mental disorders to India’s disease burden, measured in terms of Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) is double the 2.5% in 1990, making mental disorders the second largest contributor (14.5%) two years lived with disability (YLDs). A majority (91 million) suffer from depressive and anxiety disorders. Even more worryingly, the study found a positive association between socioeconomic indicators such as per-capita income and mean education and the prevalence of adult-onset depression and anxiety.

Precious little, however, is being done to equip the country’s healthcare infrastructure to cope with this burden. The study finds that there are two mental health professionals and 0.3 psychiatrists for every 100,000 of the population—while the latter number, by some estimates, is 0.75 even that is abysmally short of the global average of four. The revised Mental Health Act, 2017, mandated that mental disorders be covered under health insurance schemes, but only 19 states have formed a board in compliance with the regulations. Moreover, high treatment gap for mental disorder and psychiatrists, poor evidence-based treatment, and gender-differentials in treatment remain. Given the impact of mental illness on the quality of life and the high economic cost of an increasing mental health burden—the World Health Organization estimates India’s losses due to mental health conditions between 2012 and 2030 at over $1 tn—there is a desperate need to spread awareness and strengthen the healthcare infrastructure.

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    Shefali Gupta

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