One of the most pressing challenges our country faces, affecting: North and south. Rich and poor. Old and young. Those who work and those who can’t. Disabled and non-disabled people. A problem that can strike anyone. It blights millions of lives and undermines the welfare of our nation. It is, of course, the challenge of mental health.
India ranks at the top as the most depressed country in the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), India’s depression levels are as high as 36 per cent and is the highest in the world. What makes this even more alarming is the fact that The World Health Organization reports that depression is the leading cause of sickness and disability in the world. While the exact cause of depression isn’t clear, research suggests that most mental disorders develop, at least in part, because of a chemical imbalance in the brain, and an underlying genetic predisposition. So you can’t just shake it off.
However, the biggest obstacle in overcoming this challenge lies elsewhere; when mental and physical illnesses are treated differently, there arises the failure to recognize the onset of depression, and moreover, it’s the refusal to acknowledge that there could be a problem.
Now, one would think a widespread and vital challenge like this would be something we would all talk about. That it would be top of the political agenda. But that doesn’t tend to happen. For far too long, the country has maintained almost complete silence about mental health. Only in emergencies and at the end of conditions do we tend to talk about the issue. Some people would argue that mental health is something talked about in good times when there are no other pressing needs. That is far from the truth. Such high rates of depression in India will only have detrimental effects on its economy and hold back prosperity.
Mental health is a subject we all, whoever we are, still instinctively avoid. At home, in the workplace and in our communities, it tends to be brushed under the carpet. Neither at school nor home do young children learn about mental illness. As a result, we all fear the unknown. Today in 2019, far too many people in this country still feel as if they have to pretend they have something else wrong with them when they are struggling with depression. People can be scared to tell their boss, their friends, their spouse and their children. Scared into silence. People pretend to be alright, family and friends pretend that they haven’t noticed, the pretence continuesuntil it’s too late. A change of attitude has been observed in illnesses that have previously been taboo: from cancer to aids to other sexually transmitted diseases.
Mental health still awaits the change.
36% of India is depressed. It’s time we do something about it.