13.7 percent of India is mentally ill -- that's a whopping 181 million people!
Updated: Sep 18, 2019
India's gravest and least spoken about medical emergency is mental illness. There are 181 million mentally ill people in India, and less than 4000 mental health professionals. WHO predicts that 20% of India’s population will suffer from some form of mental illness by the year 2020. The figures are absolutely alarming, but the problem is that mental health still carries a huge stigma in Indian society. Most people just try to push it aside and hope for it to go away. Families often hide their mentally ill members, and amongst the economically backward lot, many of them are abandoned on the streets. The handful of facilities that exist are mostly living hell for the patients admitted there, where violence, torture, ill treatment and electric shocks are the common norm.
Different states are grappling with varying levels of mental illness, and much of the data may still be way lower than the reality, as people do not volunteer such information easily. In Kerala for example, Six percent of the population suffers from mental disorders and 1 in a 5 have emotional and behavioural problems, ranging from mild to severe. According to the government's estimates about 1 in 5 people in the country need #counselling. And yet, not even one percent seek it.
Just like a cold or a fever, mental illness can impact people of all ages, from children to old senior citizens, irrespective of gender, social status, past history, or professional success. It often creeps in silently and one may not notice the early signs, such as change in behaviour, moods, appetite, interests, tastes, and social interactions. Depression is the most common mental illness in India today and this can get easily overlooked or ignored for a long time.
Please do not hide or ignore signs of mental illness in yourself, or people you know. Accept it at the earliest possible, seek help, and talk about it. There is no shame in being ill -- physically or mentally. You need not go straight to a psychiatrist and get on medication. Start with counselling and let the counsellor advice you on if you need to see a psychiatrist and be on medication. Many mental illnesses and issues can be managed with effective counselling and alternative mental health treatments, The first step however, is to seek help. The longer you wait, the worse it may become.