Mental Illness: Perhaps the most neglected yet an integral part of health and is more than just being absent-minded at times. It refers to a broad array of activities directly or indirectly related to the mental well-being, prevention of mental disorders, and treatment and rehabilitation of people affected by mental disorders. Mental health services have always been in the bottom line of the priority list of the health planners at the state and central levels and this is well reflected in the quantity and quality of mental health services in India. The needs of patients and families are beyond comparison with the availability and accessibility of services for those with mental disorders. World Health Organization (WHO) says “India is the most depressed country with 1 out of 10 members are said to be in depression and the age-adjusted suicide rate per 100,000 populations is 21.1.” It is estimated that, in India, the economic loss, due to mental health conditions between 2012 to 2030, is 1.03 trillion or 2010 dollars.” (Source: WHO). It is a matter of concern that to tackle the enormous population of 1.3 billion in India there are only 5000 psychiatrists and less than 2000 trained clinical psychologists. These scarce mental health resources and specialists are largely concentrated in some states (mainly in the south) and in urban areas and a large proportion are solely in the private sector. Out of them, over 50% of the inpatient beds are lying in the mental hospitals, most of which were built during the colonial years. It is not surprising, then, that the ‘treatment gap’ for mental disorders is large all over the country, but especially so in rural areas, northern states and amongst the socially disadvantaged. The survey carried out by the National Mental Health Survey in India (2015-16) reports that only 10-12% of the people suffering from mental illness or more specifically say depression, gets treated.
Though the government or the public services are the key providers of care, what comes to the savior for these populations are Mental Health NGOs which are driven by fervor towards a certain cause and back it up with commitment and drive. While their work cannot be carried out at par to that of the government agencies, the quality of care and their efforts in reaching out to the persons with mental disorders gives them a distinct advantage. One such leading NGO is ‘The Live Love Laugh Foundation’ or TLLLF, founded by Bollywood Actress Deepika Padukone on the World Health Day i.e. 10th of October, 2015 with the objective of spreading awareness about mental illness and its health services, strongly support or champion the cause of mental health with a focus on Depression in particular. It also aims at carrying out various on-ground activities like Training General Practitioners, creating a National Database, developing helplines, fundraising and collaborating with other organizations and Institutes.
TLLLF carried out a survey with an objective to measure the level of awareness, explore people’s attitudes towards mental health and identify various stigma associated with it. This survey covered 3556 participants including persons from both the gender, across 8 major cities of the country. It was found out that though 87% of people are aware of such illness, 71% have a high stigma against people with it. While 92% believe visiting a doctor can help to recover, 71% are with medication and 69% opined that counseling can be the best recovery.
Besides carrying out such surveys and awareness programs, TLLLF stands as a constant companion to those seeking guidance and help to recover mental illness i.e. from Stress, Anxiety, and Depression. It helps the clients to recognize the symptoms and lays out various types and causes of those mental illnesses and ends up providing tips and suggestions, guidance to cure and recover thus ensuring mental health promotion which involves creating an environment that promotes healthy living and encourages people to adopt a healthy lifestyle.