Here are some numbers to set context:
- According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), globally, more than 8 Lakh people die by suicide every year. For each suicide, there are more than 20 attempts. Out of all the member states, only 38 countries report having a national strategy for suicide prevention.
- India, a vast country with a (last recorded in 2018) population of 135.26 crores is not one of them. According to the WHO’s suicide rates in the 194 member states, India along with China accounts for more than 40% of annual suicide deaths globally.
- According to a NCBI report, 15 crore or 12.5% of the Indian population is in need of active interventions for mental illnesses. Of these, nearly 1.2 crore are living with serious mental disorders. That is an alarmingly high statistic. Although stigma is a huge factor that stands in the way of people contacting professionals and getting the adequate help, there is also a shortfall of specialists and health services for mental illness. This means that treatment is unavailable or inaccessible even for those who actively seek health care.
- There is nearly one trained psychiatrist for every 2.5 Lakh people, and overall mental health workforce including psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, and psychiatric social workers together, availability is < 1 per 100,000 population.
Is suicide preventable?
Studies over the years have stressed that suicide is preventable and that all lives can be saved if the warning signs are caught on early enough. Although the truth is much more complicated and this claim doesn’t always hold, there is no doubt that there is an immense need for more conversations and active campaigns around mental health.
The need of mental health conversations in 2020
The pandemic and the lockdown following it only seems to have made matters worse. Social interaction has been limited and everyone is stuck at home indefinitely. The kind of isolation that is required to stay physically healthy in these times has definitely had an adverse effect on people all over the world. Additionally, life seems to have come to a standstill with most of our plans being suspended and no knowledge of when the situation will improve. These conditions are enough to not only trigger existing mental health issues in people but also give rise to new occurrences in seemingly ‘normal’ people.
Media coverage of mental health
The media coverage of news and current affairs doesn’t help with this either. Recent times have shown that one of the biggest areas in which India is lacking is the proper and ethical coverage of mental health issues. Mental health is exceptionally stigmatised in India and this restricts a free-flow of discussion around the same.
What we need to do
Simply acknowledging the concept of mental health is unfortunately not enough in terms of reducing stigma or being able to take care of ourselves as well as others around us. Apart from those of us who are personally or professionally involved in psychology and other related fields, not everyone is exposed to proper awareness regarding mental health.
The reality, whether we’re ready to face it or not, is that everyone struggles from time to time. It could be pressure because of work or school, troubles at home, inability to build and maintain proper relationships with self and others, or an unprecedented global pandemic. The range and gravity of what we experience differs but we all have our share of struggles and we deserve the care and love required to overcome them.
Despite all the factors, we still believe that a lot, if not all, of suicides are preventable with proper intervention. But it requires digging deeper into depression, mental illness, and other known risk factors. What is needed is a rise in high-quality programs for people with mental health problems, and support services for families struggling with depression. The time to intervene is not just in the hours or days before a suicide attempt, but in the months and even years leading up to it.
Right now, in our country, mental health is not a priority and it needs to be. We’re no experts here but we’re hoping that our little efforts will help strike up a much-needed conversation and give you something to think about.
We understand that one of the major barriers standing in the way of getting adequate help is how expensive mental health services usually are. We have been able to find a well curated list of mental health practitioners that either work on pro bono basis or charge a minimal fee. We hope you take a look and keep it mind for yourself or someone else who might need it!