The COVID-19 pandemic steered the country's focus towards healthcare in a mammoth way. It has forced us to take care of ourselves, both physically and mentally. India's healthcare infrastructure was under a lot of pressure as the increasing cases took a toll on the hospitals around the country. Now, the post-pandemic era is focused on remodelling the necessary policies that equip the medical fraternity to fight in the future.
Over the years, the ambits have expanded with various government schemes that have provided the necessary resources to all the residing communities. However, there is still a long way to make them more accessible and inclusive. An example of this is prioritising adolescent welfare in India. Currently, the country houses close to 253 million young people, which is 20% of the country's population. In the next two years, 127 million will be turning eighteen. Therefore, it is crucial more than ever to bring back the focus on their health.
Adolescent Health Awareness- Distant Dream
A non-profit organisation called Population Foundation of India (PFI) made alarming yet imperative inferences regarding adolescent health in the country. It is highly stigmatised as both parents and the local medical fraternity are unwilling to open up about it when it comes to imparting sex education.
"India has always demonstrated discomfort in talking about adolescent health and well-being, especially sexuality education. There is a resistance to the very idea, often based on myths, misconceptions, taboos and ignorance. This cuts across many sections of society—policymakers, parents, and teachers, among others. The attitude is primarily to police young people, instead of providing them accurate information and services," PFI's executive director named, Poonam Muttreja, told The Logical Indian.
Importance Of Imparting Sex Education
For many youngsters growing up in India, sex and reproduction are sources of curiosity. However, it is not satiated as they refer to unreliable sources, which often leads to misguided information. The non-profit quotes statistics from a journal called 'Culture, Health and Sexuality', stating that most young people in India's first sexual experience is predominantly unprotected and non-consensual.
"Another study, commissioned by the women and child development ministry, assessed that more than 53% of children surveyed in 13 states reported one or more forms of sexual abuse," Muttreja explains. Further, several young women are forcibly married off at a young age, which takes away their agency. "Women must be empowered to make these decisions and have access to quality and affordable sexual and reproductive health services. Ensuring reproductive rights is a prerequisite to all other routes to women's empowerment," she adds.
Mental Well-Being Should Be A Priority
Along with sex education, the PFI's inferences also focused on mental health. Poonam Muttreja continues her conversation with The Logical Indian, "There is a huge lack of awareness and a culture of silence about mental health. This is exacerbated by deeply inadequate infrastructure. According to 2017 data released by the World Health Organisation, there are approximately 9,000 psychiatrists and 49 child psychiatrists in India."
As a result, the numbers paint a sorry picture regarding the number of psychiatrists available for Indians. "The numbers amount to 0.75 psychiatrists per lakh people and 0.021 child psychiatrists per one lakh adolescents. India has about 1.93 mental health care workers per one lakh, while the global average stands at 6.6. We must shore up our mental-health infrastructure, especially amid the alienation being felt by sexual minorities," Muttreja said.
Therefore, a solution is necessary to troubleshoot these problems. One of the suggestions was to create safer internet resources for the youth. "Technology needs to be leveraged for more such innovative solutions for mental health and well-being," she ends the conversation with her latest obervation.
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