India is facing the colossal mental health crisis amidst COVID 19 pandemic, which has posed a challenge to public health systems.
The dire state of Mental Health in India has created havoc in public health systems. Stigma and vulnerabilities that a person with mental health issues are subjected to continues to persist in India. The Global Burden of Disease report states that mental disorders account for 13% of total Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) lost for Years Lived with Disability (YLD) with depression being the leading cause.
The lack of awareness and conversation discussing the issues of mental health has created health disparities and a system of inequities.
Mapping the Journey of WSPD
World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) is observed on the 10th of September to shed light on the importance of suicide prevention and seeking healthcare services. The day is marked for spreading awareness and creating safe spaces within the system. The initiation of the day came into existence in the year 2003, when the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) collaborated with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH).
“WHO suicide data collection says that close to 800,000 people die each year, due to suicide. The statistics by WHO in 2019 says that one person takes their life every 40 seconds.”
Ideally, policy implementation and interventions enable mental health support systems. However, at the grassroots, the health care systems are deficient in terms of efficacy, well-equipped infrastructure, system responsiveness, human resources, and incentives to support the health workers. The empirical pieces of evidence and the narratives highlights the gap between inequities and inequalities.
The public health system of India has left the citizens in the state of conflict. The lack of inclusive policies to address the health requirements of the population and the marginalised community has created a rift and lack of trust in the system- the lack of representation, high-quality care and improving health outcomes.
New Wave in Mental Health Scenario- Sushant Singh Rajput
The criticality of the sociopolitical landscape plays a role in constructing narratives and misconceptions. The recent case of Sushant Singh Rajput (SSR) has left the country jarred and opened a minefield of possibilities for the opportunist. The dismantling of the reasons about why someone like him- a rich superstar, with all the money and luxury how can he die by suicide? The question that arises is how does a person with depression look, what constitutes a person with mental illness, what are the social constructs that fit the labelling of the society.
The whole incident has reflected the perception of how we understand mental health and the systems are created; we are part of these systems.
The fabric of mental health systems has failed in India; the conversation on suicide prevention is on the sidelines. The lack of acknowledgment of a man going through mental health issues has infuriated the patriarchal system. The blameshifting and public shaming of Rhea Chakrobarthy has muddled all the possibilities of suicide prevention in India. The wavelength and the influence of social media and the artists have created a blur in fighting a just and fair trial.
Vulnerabilities amidst COVID 19- Way Forward
The post-COVID 19 worlds will be challenging to settle in, conversation and programs need to come back, and center around how to equip health systems.
Furthermore, they have to start focusing on interventions and tackling prejudices, biases, and social constructs prevailing in our society and absorbing all the changes.
Suicide Helpline Numbers
Sana Thapa holds a MA in Development with a specialization in Public Health from Azim Premji University and is pursuing a post-graduate diploma in Mental Health. Her previous research focus has been on the role of therapeutic shrines on mental health and alternative healing.