It’s been two years since the pandemic startled the whole of humankind. Apart from the physical difficulties caused by the pandemic, the mental health of the people is severely affected. India, which has seen a plethora of Covid deaths and oxygen crisis lately has created a poor mental state for many. This is primarily because of the fear and anxiety caused by the pandemic.
” A lot of young people are getting affected by the second wave of Covid-19. This adds a lot of stress as we are hearing someone or the other falling prey to this daily,” says Gouri R S, an IT professional from Kerala, India.
With the unprecedented arrival of the pandemic, many youngsters have lost their jobs and employment opportunities were almost nil. This is one pressurizing factor in their life.
India’s mental health situation amidst the pandemic
Looking at the history of India suggests that the mental health crisis were prevalent within the country much before the pandemic. The suicide mortality rate in India is the second-highest in the world, with about 381 suicides daily, as per the report published by the National Crime Records Bureau.
However, the pandemic appears to have worsened the situation. As everyone was asked to sit at home without any other outside interactions, many lost control over their life. This is because ‘home is not that sweet’ for them. After the lockdown , the number of domestic violence complaints received by the National Commission of Women in India proves this point. Mental torture within the family, domestic violence and abuse became a common scene in several households. No wonder why India’s mental health status stands low.
However, several suicide helplines like the Disha helpline were set up across the country to help those in need. Those helplines received a plethora of calls daily. However, there is a widespread stigma surrounding mental health within the country. This holds people back from expressing their concern or issues. Surveys suggest that people are unable to share their problems with someone or even with an expert as they are scared of being judged.
There are certain non-governmental organizations like LonePack in India, which work in the field of mental health. They aim at eradicating the stigma surrounding mental health. As an initiative, they started the LonePack Buddy scheme, which is an app where people could talk and share anything without the fear of being judged.
“ We were able to serve more than 1500 conversations and the feedback was great. This is the need of the hour, especially during the pandemic” says Naveen, one of the co-founders of the organization.
Legislation for mental health
To improve the state of mental health in India, a couple of acts and implementations have been tried in India. The Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 has been made to improve the state of mental health in India. This act makes it clear that mental health should be considered a right. Along with this, the setting up of Central and State Mental Health Authorities (SMHA) was planned. However, only 19 out of 28 states in India.
As of 2021, very few states allocate a separate amount in their budget for mental health. But, when the Union budget for FY22 was announced in February by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, health and well-being were ‘said’ to be the key pillars of a self-sufficient India. However, only 400 million was allotted for mental health, which experts say, will leave India unprepared. This is critical especially with the mental health impact due to the pandemic. Critics say that a strong legal framework for supporting mental health along with aid from the Government are the baby steps to eradicate mental health issues in India.
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