By Sayani Pan, AVP – ICTPH
There is enough evidence to establish that mental disorders cause distress, not only to the person suffering from the mental disorder, but also to his/her family. It is estimated that one in four families has at least one member presently suffering from a mental disorder (source). About 14% of the global burden of disease has been attributed to neuropsychiatric disorders, as well as to the chronically disabling nature of disorders like depression and other common mental disorders, such as alcohol-use and substance-use disorders, and psychoses. Such estimates have drawn attention to the importance of mental disorders for inclusion in public health agenda. At the international level, mental health is receiving increasing importance by the World Health Organisation (WHO), reflected in their response, “No health without mental health” as their prime focus.
The ill effects of mental disorders can be seen in terms of economic strains, difficulties in accepting the illness, stress of coping with altered behavior and medicinal side effects, dealing with stigma attached with the illness, as well as disturbance of household routine and restriction of social activities. In most situations, families are forced to bear the treatment expenses of mental illness because in India mental disorders are not seen as ‘medical illnesses’ and are therefore not covered by health insurance.
Mental health problems are not exclusive to any particular group. People of all regions, all countries and all societies – men and women, at all life stages – are vulnerable to mental health problems. The belief that India has a low prevalence of mental illness as compared to the West – owing to the spiritual philosophy of life, limited urbanisation and industrialisation, and strong family ties – is not true. The belief that rural communities are relatively unaffected by the fast pace of modern life, and therefore have no mental disorders, is also incorrect. Mental disorders are universally present, which is why ICTPH acknowledges the need to intervene in this area to improve the mental health of our populations.
As we plan to embark on provisioning mental health care services in our operational areas, we realise the need to develop better and in-depth understanding of the mental health conditions of our populations. This understanding will help us design effective interventions that will encompass integration of drug therapy with provision of psychosocial care to ensure better compliance to treatment. We plan to deliver mental health care interventions to our populations with the help of our well formed network of SughaVazhvu guides, RMHC, and appropriate referral mechanisms. Tune in for more updates as we work towards formulating our institutional understanding of mental health conditions, and designing intervention strategies for the same – all of which points towards the common objective to create mentally well and healthy populations in the communities we serve.