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Mental Health In India – Things You Must Know!

By Dhwani Jerajani +2 more

Mental health illness is about a person’s mental and emotional well-being. Good mental health or being mentally sound would mean that one possesses a balanced mind, confidence and self-esteem. A mental illness is a problem that significantly affects how a person thinks, perceives and reacts.

There are different kinds of mental illnesses that vary in degrees and severity. It can be split into common mental illnesses and severe mental illnesses. Mental health illness can range from psychosis– which is a chemical imbalance in the body to neurosis– which is poor attitudinal learning during the growing or formative years.

Mental Health Illnesses is about a person's mental and emotional well-being. Good mental health or being mentally sound would mean that one possesses

Common Mental Health Illnesses include:

  1. Depression
  2. Anxiety/Phobias
  3. Eating Disorders
  4. Stress

Severe Mental Health Illnesses Include:

  1. Schizophrenia
  2. Bipolar disorder (Manic depression)
  3. Clinical depression
  4. Suicidal tendency
  5. Personality disorder

Statistics show that 1 in every 5 individuals suffers from some form of mental health illness symptoms. 50% of mental health conditions begin by age 14 and 75% of mental health conditions develop by age 24. Mental illness can be triggered by multiple factors. Complex interactions between mind, body and environment result in psychological disorders. Some of the factors are long term acute stress, biological factors, drug abuse and overdose, cognitive behaviour like constant negative thoughts, low energy, etc, social problems like financial problems, breakdowns, isolation, etc.

Symptoms of mental health illness are:

  1. Persistent negative thoughts including a preoccupation with death or suicide
  2. Difficulty concentrating
  3. Low energy or severely fluctuating energy levels
  4. Hearing voices
  5. Wanting to spend excessive amounts of time alone
  6. Inappropriate and uncontrollable behaviour: excessive anger or sadness, for example
  7. Severe paranoia

Mental health in India is still a fairly new topic and the mental health myths and taboos attached to this subject are prevalent to this date. According to the National Health program by the Ministry of health and family welfare, 6% of Kerala’s population has mental disorders. 1 in a 5 has some emotional and behavioural problems. Close to 60 to 70 million people in the country suffer from common and severe mental disorders. India is the world’s suicide capital with over 2.6 lakh cases of suicide in a year. WHO statistics say the average suicide rate in India is 10.9 for every lakh people.

Mental illness is still a stigma in India. The most important thing is to seek a Psychiatrists help , like we do general health checkups every year, similarly one should always do a mental health check up yearly.

Dr. M.G. Kartheeka, MBBS, MD

There are a few factors/ reasons that contribute to these reasons,

Ignorance: the first and foremost reason being awareness and knowledge. People use words like ‘mad’ and ‘asylum’ carelessly. There are far too many derogatory and demeaning terms used to describe someone who is mentally not fit and this stigma or taboo coupled with ignorance and lack of awareness discourages people who are suffering to speak up and reach out for help.   

Lack of help: We have just 43 state-run mental health institutions across the country. 3800 psychiatrists available as against the requirement of 11,500; 898 clinical psychologists as against 17250, 850 psychiatric social workers as against 23000, 1500 psychiatric nurses as against 3000. That means there is only one psychiatrist for four lakh Indians and only 1,022 college seats for mental health professionals are set aside in India.

Untreated mental illnesses can cause a number of problems, for e.g., depression in pregnancy can be a cause of low birth weight and preterm birth (birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy).

Dr. Ashish Bajaj, M.B.B.S., M.D.

Also Read: What Is Meningitis? A Detailed Research-Based Overview

No insurance for the mentally ill: Insurance companies do not provide medical insurance to people who are admitted to hospitals with mental illnesses. Admission to a good hospital is out of reach for some because of this. A good treatment doesn’t come cheap and without insurance cover, it becomes even more difficult.

How the pandemic has aggravated conditions

India’s statistics related to addressing mental health issues were poor, to begin with always. It was made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic as the first wave spread across the world in 2020. How did it happen?

  • long periods of isolation
  • Frontline workers not being able to come physically close to their family members  
  • Loss of job  
  • Financial difficulty
  • Not being able to see or meet loved ones  
  • Alcohol and substance abuse due to stress
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Cloud of uncertainty  
  • Constantly worrying about getting infected and infecting people around you
  • Not being able to express oneself  
  • Having to work overtime, complete disruption of work-life balance
  • Losing loved ones due to the infection
  • Increase in domestic violence
  • Closed institutions  

All of these points mentioned above and many more heightened the critical situation of unaddressed mental health already existing in India. Although the pandemic presented a great opportunity in the form of work from culture to spend time with one’s family and loved ones (who earlier had to deal with periods of separation due to pressing work commitments), not all people received the same benefit or felt the same about having to work from home.  

The negative impact of the pandemic felt by the greater portion of the country became prominent in the form of anxiety, depression, burnout and a tendency to commit suicide. Many young people in India who had taken loans at the time of the pandemic from unregulated sources were unable to meet these loans and out of embarrassment and constant humiliation were pushed to the brink of suicide.  

Significant efforts were taken by the government to raise awareness and address issues earlier pushed aside due to fear of associated stigma. Many programs such as the National Mental Health Program, District Mental Health Program and mental health institutions such as the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences and Central Insitute of Psychiatry encouraged people to reach out and seek assistance with the help of the national helpline number in times of need.  

Needless to say that the pandemic has been hard on everyone as it exposed gaps in our lives and presented many new unforeseen challenges.  

Also Read: Navigating Bipolar Disorder: How a Person With Bipolar Thinks


Mental illness can be treated with the right kind of support, for psychosis illnesses, the right medication under the right guidance is very important and for neurosis illness, getting good counselling, support and love from peer circle and family plays a crucial role. Reaching out or identifying these problems at an early stage is very important.

Disclaimer:  The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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