The Issue of Mental Health in India
"Woh pagal hai". The term is not just used to derogate the individual suffering from mental illness, but also seem to connote that there is some 'defect/weakness' in the person. It is an irony, then, that India is home to about 57 million people with depression. Other mental illnesses and concerns shoot up the estimate dramatically. And yet, India lags far behind in seeking or receiving proper treatment. Why is this so?
Attitude of the society
In 2018, the Live Love Laugh Foundation conducted a national survey in 8 different cities of the country, on attitudes towards mental health. 47% of the participants conferred high judgments on people suffering from mental illness, despite awareness. Additionally, 26% people were fearful that 'such individuals' lived in their communities. The attitudes ranged from keeping distance from the person to viewing it as 'contagious'.
This only shows that creating awareness is not the issue here; the problem lies in creating sensitivity.
Lack of accessible and efficient practitioners
Let us recollect the issues of accessing healthcare professionals. It is threefolds.
- It is expensive. You may be charged as much as 5000 rupees for just 2 hours, which is exorbitant for a student, or low-income group. The conditions in the smaller towns, and villages are worse.
- The quality is poor, mostly. With anecdotes from clients and professionals, Nevatia from Huffington Post India (2018) stated that inefficient psychiatrists often end up giving wrong medication, leading to adverse symptoms.
- The long wait period. Efficient practitioners have a long wait-list, which can be anywhere between 3-6 months. That is a long period when your symptoms are severe.
What needs to be done?
⇒ Institutional Level
Some part of the issue needs to be tackled structurally, at a policy level.
- Increasing MPhil seats in RCI affiliated institutes, to absorb more Psychology post-graduates.
- The salary of psychology post-graduates is substantially lower, despite requiring higher qualifications. More investment needs to be made on them. New jobs must be created to incorporate them.
- Para-mental health workers, besides mental health social workers, can be given special trainings in first-aids, especially from the different communities and regions. The focus should be on quantity and outreach, and ensuring quality.
- Rescaling and training interested individuals from other fields could be carried out to act as para-mental health workers to meet the demand.
- Re-defining old care support and incorporation the elderly as para-mental health workers.
- Strengthening regulatory bodies like Rehabilitation Council of India to maintain a better check on the psychology courses and ensure ethical practices.
- Provision of digital enrollment registry for people requiring mental health services, so that they can be directed to appropriate professionals in time.
⇒ Societal level
- Campaigns need to be organized in the various societies in order to foster empathy and sensitivity towards people suffering from mental health problems.
- Campaigns to urge more people to join this profession may help in meeting the skewed demand-supply pattern. This will also ensure cheaper accessible mental healthcare.
- Interventions need to be conducted to make society more respectful towards people suffering from mental health issues.
- Society must be taught to respect families of people with mental health problems, so that the stigma doesn't prevent such individuals from seeking therapy.
⇒ At business organizations
Indian corporate sector is inhuman to its employees. A vast majority of them suffer from stress, anxiety and depression. We must all collectively fight to make organizations support the mental health of its people.
⇒ Familial level
- Online family interventions can be administered to help them adjust and accept the person better.
- Digital registry can be maintained for the afflicted families so that they receive adequate support and help.
- Adoption of therapy dogs or pets can be encouraged. Any pet proves to be a great buffer against mental health problems.
⇒ Individual level
- Create a support network of friends and family who are there for you.
- Try looking for group discussions/therapy organized by people with similar mental health issues.
- Try to break the denial to obtain therapy, and move forward to end your suffering.
- Seek out mental health NGOs and ask them to connect you with healthcare professionals.
Thus, the solution to stop India from deteriorating further into abyss needs interventions and regulations at different levels, as well as through a combination of steps.
Nevatia, S. (2018, December 19). Why is it so hard to find good mental healthcare in India. Huffington Post India. Retrieved from
The Live Love Laugh Foundation. (2018). How India Perceives Mental Health: TLLLF 2018 National Survey Report. Retrieved from