World Mental Health Day: October 10
Psychiatrists Call For ‘Clean Stigma’ Campaign For Mentally ill
New Delhi, October 9: Seeing PM Narendra Modi’s ‘clean India’ campaign catching up, hope for the mentally ill has floated. On the eve of World Mental Health Day (October 10), psychiatrists and mental health experts have called for his intervention to wipe out stigma attached to mental illness. Citing alarming spurt in suicide cases in India, they want Modi to launch awareness campaign for mentally ill people on the scale of clean India campaign.
They today said stigma attached to mental illnesses is a great barrier to timely and proper treatment. Quoting a recent WHO report that portrays India as “The Suicide Capital of the World”, they said every 40 seconds a suicide is committed somewhere in the world and one of every three suicides takes place in India. Also, an Indian commits suicide every two minutes and more men kill themselves than women in India. In 2012, 2.5 lakh people killed themselves in India, according to a report.
India’s demographic profile shows that it has the largest youth resources in the world with over 66 per cent of its population below the age of 35 years. However, this age group is seriously threatened by mental illnesses.
The incidence of serious mental health disorders is estimated to be higher among people in the 18-25 age groups and suicide is the second most leading cause of deaths in India in the 15-29 age groups, experts said on the eve of World Mental Health Day.
“Mental health issues pose serious public health concerns, but these are amongst the most neglected health issues due to social factors. The stigma and lack of awareness dissuade even the educated sections of the society from receiving timely intervention,” Dr. Sunil Mittal, Senior Psychiatrist, Cosmos Institute of Mental Health & Behavioural Sciences, (CIMBS) adding that most suicides are preventable.
There is an imperative need to launch a nationwide campaign that would take into account the entire gamut of mental health issues and suggest measures to remove the obstacles for accessing timely and proper treatment, the experts said. “Any delay in making suicides a health care priority will only compound the problem,” Dr. Mittal said.
“Mental disorders are a leading cause of disabilities and suicides. While universal health is incomplete without sound mental health, i.e. if one is not mentally healthy, one is not globally healthy but up to 85% of people with severe mental health disorders in our country do not receive any treatment or care” Dr. Mittal said, “Perhaps the most daunting aspect of meeting the rising challenge posed by mental illnesses is the societal stigma that constitutes an immense barrier to the access to treatment”,
The WHO studies indicate that globally 25% of all patients using a health service suffer from at least one mental, neurological or behavioral disorder, which are mostly undiagnosed or untreated” said Dr. Sunil Mittal.
Of the approx. 7 billion people worldwide, the WHO believes that 350 million suffer from depression, 120 million suffer from anxiety disorders, over 100 million suffer from alcohol and drug abuse disorders, and 24 million people suffer from Schizophrenia (WHO, 2013).
With the above in mind, the Cosmos Institute of Mental Health & Behavioural Sciences, New Delhi (CIMBS) undertakes community activities from time to time in an effort to increase awareness about mental health issues and well-being, and to undertake sensitization drives to make mental healthcare more accessible to those who can benefit from timely interventions. On the World Mental Health Day, October 10th 2014, CIMBS has taken the opportunity to raise the issue of ‘Living with Mental Health Conditions’ with the objective of raising awareness about mental health issues.
Mental illnesses entail a significant cost to the patient in terms of personal suffering, and also on the care-givers of the sufferer as a result of the shift of the responsibility of care from the hospital to the families, and on society at large in terms of significant direct and indirect cost that include frequent hospitalization and need for long-term rehabilitation. “The essential requirements for the sufferers are appropriate diagnosis, relevant assessments and opportune treatment followed up with rehabilitation for chronic cases like Schizophrenia, for a better success rate” said Ms. Mitali Srivastava, Senior Clinical Psychologist at CIMBS, who then talks about the deficit syndrome in Schizophrenia and the need for intensive Psycho-social Intervention and Rehabilitation to help the patient realize their strengths and adjust positively to the environment.
Ms. Sadiya Afzal Khan, Associate Psychiatric Social Worker at CIMBS said, “Psycho-social Rehabilitation for people with chronic psychiatric illness helps them re-learn and re-gain lost skills that are required for a smooth functioning in their daily routines. It also brings a sense of respect and self esteem to both patients and their care-givers”. However, such Psycho-social Rehabilitation remains an alien concept in many parts of India, despite the soaring need for such programs and the scope of such programs to play a very productive role. “Further, there is a need for strict and clear policies to be formulated for the rehabilitation of persons with Schizophrenia and to bring to the fore good programs for rehabilitation” adds Ms. Srivastava.
Dr. Sameer Kalani, Consultant Psychiatrist at CIMBS shares, “the lack of financial support in the form of an absence of insurance coverage for mental illnesses is usually enough to bring the care-givers to their knees. The inability of the sufferer to earn a livelihood due to residual symptoms, cognitive decline in performance and of course a prevalent stigma in the community affects the patient and their family immensely”.
Ms. Dona Jain, Clinical Psychologist at CIMBS concludes, “The burden of mental disorders and the burden of care-giving, as seen by the world is only the tip of the iceberg. To promote holistic mental health, there is a need to create such milieu that supports mental healthcare and allows people to adopt and maintain healthy lifestyles”.