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Urban Mental Health in India

Mental Health as an issue is neglected in Urban India. According to a survey conducted by ICMR, every 10th Delhiite suffers from psychiatric illnesses such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. But this is one area that is afflicted most by a high treatment gap due to the social stigma attached to mental illnesses, lack of awareness and resistance to treatment by patients.

The survey by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on urban mental health between 2004 and 2009, show that 10% of Delhities suffer from psychiatric illnesses with depression being the most common ailment followed by anxiety and depression.

The problem is not confined to the less affluent pockets of national capital, Institute of Human Behavior and Allied Sciences has been running mobile health unit for the past 18 months to reach out to patients .The unit has received 455 calls most of which about 20% have been from the posh south Delhi area.

According to ICMR survey only 10-20% mentally ill people in Delhi seek medical help. There are numerous cases where mentally ill people suffered depression, self confined or starved themselves leading to death. These are not cases of the destitute mentally ill but educated people living in middle class or affluent pockets.

In most cases patients turn reclusive and often starve themselves to death while neighbors prefer to look the other way. Many undiagnosed patients belonging to different social strata continue to live in self-denial and let their illness become severe when it is completely curable.

The doctors at IHBAS blame the stigma attached to mental illnesses for 80%patients not getting proper care and treatment. In most cases even if family senses there is something wrong they are reluctant to take the patient to a mental health professional. There is also misconception that once some one is mentally ill, he or she will remain so forever.

Unlike severe illnesses like Schizophrenia other illnesses are completely curable through medicines. The family of a patient may also get affected either genetically or due to intense emotional distress and burn out while tending to the patient.

It is our duty as neighbors or resident welfare associations to reach out to the patients so that they get timely help. It is also important to be sensitive to the condition of the mentally ill and not to shun them.

Source: Hindustan Times, New Delhi

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