October 10th is World Mental Health Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness about the true and current state of mental health around the world. The goal is to garner attention and support to alleviate the plight of the millions of people around the world living in quiet suffering, with illnesses ranging from anxiety and depression to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, to name a few.
Here are some shocking facts about mental health in India, and why we need to start this conversation.
1. The Indian government estimates that 6-7% of the population suffer from major to minor mental health issues. That's approximately 70 million Indians. This number is increasing every year.
2. According to some estimates, a fifth of Indian adolescents have emotional, learning, or developmental issues, while an eighth have serious mental health issues.
3. The World Health Organisation (WHO) predicts that by the year 2020, 20% of India's population will suffer from mental health issues.
4. Only 1-2% of the Indian health budget is allotted to mental health, despite mental illness accounting for over 15% of health disorders.
5. Due to stigmas and misinformation, people in need of help are rarely able to access it. Additionally, despite the huge number of people who require mental health attention, India only has 3,500 trained psychiatrists and even fewer psychologists.
6. India accounts for more suicides than any other country in the world. In fact, India accounts for one third of all total global suicides.
7. Suicide is considered a criminal act under the Indian Penal Code. This, combined with rampant stigma, means many suicide attempts go unreported, and suicidal individuals fear seeking treatment.
8. Despite receiving most media attention, farmer and student suicides are far more rare than suicides caused by poverty and a lack of access to treatment.
9. While most mental health issues are treatable, widespread stigma against mental illness means Indians who need help often get neither diagnosed nor treated.
The good news is that just by having read this article, you're better informed than most people about the state of mental health in India. Spreading awareness is our first responsibility – join and continue the conversation in whatever ways you can.
For more information on being proactive about mental health in India, reach out to Dr. Sahar Bhaloo, who contributed research and writing to this post. Contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter here.