Only 41% Young In India Seek Help For Battling Mental Health Issues

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The Logical Indian Crew

Only 41% Young In India Seek Help For Battling Mental Health Issues

In a UNICEF survey across 21 countries, only 41 per cent of young people in India said that it is good to seek support for mental health problems, compared to an average of 83 per cent for 21 countries.

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Mental Health is one of the most pressing concerns of contemporary times. In a developing country like India, if youngsters and children are prone to mental health concerns, it can have a lasting impact on them. Union Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, the Minister of Health and Family Welfare, launched the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on October 5, 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the limelight the mental health of the younger generation.

India's representative to the UNICEF, Dr Yasmin Ali Haque and the Secretary of Health Shri Rajesh Bhushan; Joint Secretary NCD, Shri Vishal Chauhan and Professor Pratima Murthy, Director, National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience, joined the launch of UNICEF's global flagship publication, The State of the World's Children 2021; On My Mind: promoting, protecting and caring for children's mental health. The international organization undertook a comprehensive look at the issues related to the mental health of children, adolescents and caregivers in the 21st century.

In the report, Dr Yasmin Ali Haque mentioned, "Children in India have been through a challenging time living through the risks and restrictions posed by the pandemic. Nothing could have prepared them for the onslaught of the second pandemic wave that hit India earlier this year. Children witnessed suffering and uncertainties that no child should have to see. Being away from family, friends, classrooms and play caused isolation and anxiety. Children have not only been living an emotional tragedy, but many are also at a higher risk of neglect and abuse". He further emphasized that what we know about the mental health conditions in children was just the tip of the iceberg.

Dr Haque also appreciated the union minister for joining in spotlighting the mental health issues concerning children in the country and leading national initiatives to address the problems mentioned in the report. UNICEF compiled the report after a survey involving 20,000 children and adults in 21 countries during the early months of 2021. The report highlighted that children in India are restrained from seeking help regarding mental health issues. Moreover, out of 21 countries, India was the only country where a minority felt that people who battle mental health problems should seek support from others. In the rest 20 countries, the percentage of people who felt that reaching out was the best option to tackle mental health problems ranged from 56 to 95 per cent.

One In Seven In India Depressed

One of the most shocking revelations of the report was that 14 per cent of people aged between 15 years to 24 years, or one in seven individuals, reported feeling depressed or had little interest in engaging in activities. The global median was one in five people who experienced similar feelings. The proportion varied from one to three in Cameroon to one in ten in Japan and Ethiopia.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that is entering its third year has been dangerous on children. Due to national and State lockdown measures, children do not have access to any social services, disrupting their routines, education and recreational activities. Moreover, the insecurity regarding family income and uncertain health conditions have left the youngsters angry, afraid and unsure of their future.

According to data from United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), India comprised 286 million children up till Grade six in 2020-21. UNICEF's rapid assessment showed that only 60 per cent of them had access to digital education. Going by the statistics, it means that millions of children across the country had faced several disruptions, and many would not be able to come back to school. The UNICEF report also mentions that it is not to point out that all the above-mentioned mental health concerns occurred only during the pandemic. To make matters worse, the underlying issue of children's mental health issues always existed but went unnoticed before the pandemic.

Highest Number of Mental Disorders In India

After COVID-19, South Asia had the highest number of adolescents with mental disorders. The latest available estimates show that one in seven adolescents lived with a diagnosed mental disorder globally. Unfortunately, in India, children with mental health disorders are undiagnosed at most times and hesitate to seek professional help to fight the disease. In 2019, the Indian Journal of Psychiatry stated that 50 million children in India suffered from mental health issues, and 80 to 90 per cent of those have not sought help. To top the heap of problems, there is a wide gap in mental health needs and the funding required. In 2017, the Indian Journal of Psychiatry mentioned that India only 0.5 per cent of its health budget to handle mental health cases.

Mental Health disorders like autism, anxiety issues, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), eating disorders, conduct issues, depression, intellectual disability, and schizophrenia can harm children and young people's health, education, life outcomes, and earnings. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that the economic loss due to mental health issues from 2012 to 2030 could be as high as US$ 1.03 trillion. The impact on children's health, nonetheless, would be incalculable.

Health Emergencies Can Be Deciding Factors

The UNICEF report notes that a combination of genetics, experiences, economic and environmental factors from the earliest days, which included parenting, experience at schools, experiences in relationships, abuse, discrimination, humanitarian crises and health emergencies can be the deciding factors towards a person's vulnerability to mental health issues. Loving caregivers, safer school environments, positive and encouraging peer to peer relationships can significantly reduce the risk of untoward mental conditions.

The 'State of the World's Children 2021' report called on the governments of all countries, public and private sector partners to promote mental health amongst children. They mentioned that urgent investment in children and adolescents' mental health across all sectors to support the whole of society to prevent and promote caregiving. There is a requirement to invest in strategies that would promote better mental health and prevent gender-based and all other forms of violence. Dr Haque concluded by saying that "For children who are isolated and traumatized, we must make sure there is better understanding to maximize every child's potential."

Also Read: Centre To Apex Court: Unable To Bring SC, ST At Par With Forward Castes In 75 Years

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