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Why do We Need to Focus on Mental Health?

Feb 05, 2023

Why do we need to focus on mental health

Today’s edition of our Current Affairs will comprise a discussion on Why do We Need to Focus on Mental Health. Read further to upgrade your UPSC CSE knowledge and also understand the topic’s relevance to the UPSC syllabus.

For Mains: General Studies Paper II (Issues Related to Health)


According to WHO, India’s suicide rate in 2019, at 12.9/1,00,000, was higher than the regional average of 10.2 and the global average of 9.0. 

Probable Question

To reduce the stigma around mental health, there is a need for active policy interventions and resource allocation by the government along with training and sensitisation of the community or society at large. Explain. (150 words, 10 marks)

Status of Mental healthcare in India

  • According to the National Mental Health Survey 2019, about 14% of all adults in India have or will have a mental condition of some kind.
    • Nearly 56 million people in the country are thought to suffer from depression, with another 38 million suffering from anxiety disorders.
  • Suicides rates in India are amongst the highest when compared to other countries at the same socio-economic level.
    • According to WHO, India’s suicide rate in 2019, at 12.9/1,00,000, was higher than the regional average of 10.2 and the global average of 9.0.
  • Suicide has become the leading cause of death among those aged 15–29 in India.

Prevalence of Mental Health Issues

  • Across the world, the prevalence of some mental health disorders is consistently higher among women as compared to men.
  • Impact of COVID19 pandemic: The pandemic has increased the prevalence of depression by 28 per cent and anxiety by 26 per cent in just one year between 2020 and 2021, according to a study published in Lancet.
    • The large increase has been noted among younger age groups, stemming from uncertainty and fear about the virus, financial and job losses, grief, increased childcare burdens, in addition to school closures and social isolation.
  • Increased use of certain kinds of social media: Results in increased stress and mental ill health for young people.
    • Social media erodes self-esteem through unfavourable social comparison.

Reasons for Prevalence of Mental Issues in India

  • Problem of inadequate resources: Less than two per cent of the government health budget, which itself is the lowest among all G20 countries, is devoted to mental health issues. 
  • According to one estimate, there is a severe shortage of mental health professionals, with the number of psychiatrists in the country being less than those in New York City.
  • Most private health insurance covers only a restricted number of mental health conditions. 
  • The list of essential medicines includes only a limited number of WHO-prescribed mental health medications. 

Socio-economic Implications of Mental Issues

  • It is a leading cause of disability globally and is closely linked to poverty in a vicious cycle of disadvantage.
    • People living in poverty are at greater risk of experiencing mental health conditions. 
    • On the other hand, people experiencing severe mental health conditions are more likely to fall into poverty through loss of employment and increased health expenditure. 
    • Stigma and discrimination often further undermine their social support structures. This reinforces the vicious cycle of poverty and mental ill-health. 
  • Countries with greater income inequalities and social polarisation have been found to have a higher prevalence of mental ill-health.

Also Read: Everything You Need to Know About 19th ASEAN-India Economic Ministers’ Meeting

Approach needed for Protecting, Promoting and Caring for the Mental Health of the People

  • Killing the deep stigma surrounding mental health issues: Stigma around mental health  prevents patients from seeking timely treatment and makes them feel shameful, isolated and weak. 
  • Making mental health an integral part of the public health programme: This would help in  reducing stress, promote a healthy lifestyle, screen and identify high-risk groups and strengthen mental health interventions like counselling services.
    • Special emphasis need to be paid to schools and to groups that are highly vulnerable to mental health issues such as victims of domestic or sexual violence, unemployed youth, marginal farmers, armed forces personnel and personnel working under difficult conditions.
  • Creating a strong infrastructure for mental health care and treatment: Currently, only 20-30 percent of people with mental illnesses receive adequate treatment. Substantial investments will be needed to address the gaps in the mental health infrastructure and human resources. 
  • Mental health services should be made affordable for all: Improved coverage without corresponding financial protection will lead to inequitable service uptake and outcomes.
    • All government health assurance schemes, including Ayushman Bharat, should cover the widest possible range of mental health conditions. 

Initiatives by the Government of India for Mental Health

  • National Mental Health Program (NMHP): The Government of India launched the National Mental Health Programme (NMHP) in 1982, keeping in view the heavy burden of mental illness in the community, and the absolute inadequacy of mental health care infrastructure in the country to deal with it. The three main components of the NMHP are:
    • Treatment of mentally ill.
    • Rehabilitation.
    • Prevention and promotion of positive mental health.
  • District Mental Health Program: Envisages provision of basic mental health care services at the community level. It was added to the National Mental Health Program in 1996.
  • KIRAN helpline: Launched by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in 2020 to provide  24*7 mental health support.
  • MANAS (Mental Health and Normalcy Augmentation System) mobile app: The app was launched in 2021 to promote mental wellbeing across age groups.

News Source: Indian Express


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