Mental health is as important as physical wealth
IBNS | 11 Oct 2017
Mental health is as important as physical wealth
The ever-increasing complexities of modern life are creating more problems for the human mind than it can cope with. Mental illness, including addiction and alcoholism, is assuming greater proportions as challenging social problems. Kolkata-based Antara strives to extend a helping hand to the mentally-distressed in ways more than one. KamalPrakash, President, Antara, talks about the challenges on World Mental Health Day, observed on October 10.

A Harvard Study shows that one out of eight pilots is likely to be depressed and 4 per cent pilots feel they are better off dead; artificial Intelligence  would be one of the main causes of next holocaust forcing  America’s super rich to invest in bunkers on islands; automation leads to 9000 job cuts at Infosys, more American soldiers committed suicide than the lives lost in combat in Iraq war; etc. 
Psychological conditions lead to crimes, suicide, and addiction to substance abuse are every day headlines and support the fact that, in 2015, as per Government of India, 15 per cent of Indians were suffering from some form of mental illness and by 2020, we shall have nearly 20 per cent of the population inflicted from mental health issues, a figure close to 26 crore Indians. 
The global situation is no better with more than 10 per cent of the world population, a whopping, 70 crore needing psychiatric  help.
If we look at the attitude of governments, corporates, NGOs, schools, families, and communities; they all majorly focus on physical well being of humans while ignoring their mental health
Can we imagine healthy humans without healthy mind? There  is no health without good mental health.
It would be unfair to all the contributing stakeholders of society, to say that no attention is being given to mental health, but this is  far less compared to the one given to physical health.  
If India’s health budget spending is 2 per cent of the total budget, not even 2 per cent of this two per cent i.e. 0.04 per cent is budgeted and spent on mental health
Considering the state of government’s delivery system, we don’t know how much of this 0.04 per cent share of the union budget spending is actually being utilized and reaches the needy.
If we compare the growth in mental illness compared to any other illness, keeping aside the affected numbers in this case, the progression is one of the highest, whereas action taken to combat it,  is by far the lowest.
Hence it is important without losing any time, for the government and all stakeholders of society to take a holistic view and approach to mental health and act with urgency and consistency to save the current and future generations of Indians and global citizens.
One of the major obstacles in handling mental illness is stigma. 
Government and all other advocacy groups must promote the importance of mental health, and make citizens aware that it is like any other illness, treatable and curable in most cases. 
People should be encouraged to overcome their fears and seek assistance. Family, friends, and society needs to empathise with those suffering from mental illness and be supportive so that they can come out of it.
From a holisitic approach, it is important that every parent, gaurdian, siblings, teacher, colleague, and superior, need to understand mental health’s importance,  and should become an emotional shield for their children, siblings, parents, relatives, students, colleagues, subordinates, and other members of society. 
This would lead to prevention, in mental illness, usage of drugs, alcohol and other substance. Even gutka and tobacco usage would come down significantly adding to healthy population of our  nation.
Statistics show that for a population of about 125 crores, probably India has about 15,000 qualified psychiatrists, which is insignificant. 
Similarly, we probably just have an average of about 1.4 psychiatric hospital beds for each population group of 100,000. 
Both of these need to be increased significantly with innovative programs to treat acute psychiatric patients.
We need to motivate and train on an urgent basis the medical practitioners and social workers in the realm of psychiatry, who can play an important role in early intervention and treatment, before it becomes acute.
We should be learning from others and also innovate or customise the rehabilitation of those who have recovered from acute mental illness or substance abuse. Incetivise families, educational institutions, and businesses, for rehabilitating such recovered patients.
I feel, that with a clear objective of making India and the world healthy, both mentally and physically, by following clear path of prevention, early intervention, treatment of acutely mentally ill/addicted citizens, and ensuring their rehabilitation in mainstream society, we can eventually succeed. 
This would be a tough and a long war, but an achievable one, against mental illness, addiction  and substance abuse. 
As India freed itself from TB and polio, which would have ruined generations of Indians, we need to create a similar nationwide movement for improving mental health and combating  mental illnesses and substance abuse.