Mental health and the stigma

The records show that the hospital receives more than 300 patients with different mental health problems daily, while the child psychiatry section receives 30-40 cases and over 60 elderly patients every day with different mental ailment cases.
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Representational Image GK Layout Desk

Identifying a mental illness is a big challenge in Kashmir households where family members prefer spiritual preachers over psychiatrists.

When people develop symptoms of mental disorders. Their family members take them to spiritual preachers, where they even beat them to ward off evil spirits as they think these patients have an influence of evil spirits (Jins).

The concept of evil spirits influencing human behaviour or mental progressions is used to justify various symptoms or experiences. After months of visits when nothing happens their condition deteriorates and they suffer from chronic mental illness.

Unfortunately, most young people with mental health problems don’t get any treatment for them. This often happens with the patients who are diagnosed with schizophrenia. Their families think that they are “possessed” due to their odd behavior, auditory, and coenesthetic hallucinations. 

Some patients are lucky, their parents or well-wishers identify the symptoms and consultant psychiatrists to get them treated. But stigma is still attached to the mental issues in the valley. So, here government institutions be it hospitals, educational institutes, family members and media play a very important role in creating awareness regarding the mental health issues among the people. 

Mental illness, also called mental health disorders, refers to a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behaviour. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviours.

According to the doctors at Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience (IMHANS), more than 30 thousand mental health cases have been reported at the institute, in the last four months of this year alone, and the number is increasing every day. Most of the people in Kashmir do not visit hospitals and clinics due to the stigma.

The records show that the hospital receives more than 300 patients with different mental health problems daily, while the child psychiatry section receives 30-40 cases and over 60 elderly patients every day with different mental ailment cases.

Besides, the hospital has received more than 70 thousand mental health cases from April 2020 to March 2021.

In Kashmir Division, Srinagar district tops with more patients admitted, followed by Baramulla, Anantnag, Kupwara, Kulgam, Budgam, Pulwama and other districts.

Doctors at the hospital said that they have carried out more than 2000 psychological tests of the patients.

Among the mental ailment cases- depression, anxiety and insomnia have been prevalent among the younger population of Kashmir.

Centre’s move to launch ‘National Tele Mental Health’ programme in this year’s Budget 2022 will definitely improve the overall mental health care services in Kashmir.

Touching upon the subject of mental health in recent times, in her hour-and-a-half speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, “The pandemic has accentuated mental health problems in people of all ages. To better access quality mental health counseling and care services, a National Tele Mental Health programme will be launched.”

 Mental health experts also expressed happiness over the move and said that the National Tele Mental Health Programme will bring positive change in Kashmir.

 IMHANS has already set up some online platforms which proved helpful. But this programme will further improve the quality of mental healthcare services in Kashmir.

Since the cases of mental health issues have gone up in the valley especially in this pandemic.So, launching a National tele mental health programme will improve the mental healthcare services.

The National tele mental health programme will include a network of 23 tele mental health sectors, with NIMHANS as the nodal centre and IIIT-Bangalore providing technology support.

The Lancet released a new report calling for radical action to end stigma and discrimination in mental health, indicating that 90% of people living with mental health conditions feel negatively impacted by stigma and discrimination.

There was an online launch event for the Commission report at the WHO on the occasion of World Mental Health Day (Oct 10)

Further, 80% said stigma and discrimination can be worse than the condition itself. Additionally, 90% of those surveyed felt that media could play a major role in reducing stigma.

The report was the result of the labours of the new Lancet Commission on Ending Stigma and Discrimination in Mental Health, a grouping of over 50 contributors from across the world, including people with lived experience of a mental health condition.

The commission reviewed the evidence on effective interventions to reduce stigma and called for immediate action from governments, international organisations, employers, healthcare provider and media organisations, along with active contributions from people with lived experience, to work together to eliminate mental health stigma and discrimination.

As per the commission, stigma can “cause social exclusion and disempowerment of people with mental health conditions leading to discrimination and human rights violations, including problems in accessing healthcare, challenges in securing employment, and increased likelihood of health complications leading to early death”.

People experience pain and emotional discomfort when they have mental health problems which are real. Some people are not ready to accept that they suffer from mental disorders. There is a good chance that people with mental ailments will improve by getting appropriate treatment at the right time. 

This programme is an open platform for the National Digital Health Ecosystem, which will consist of digital registries of health providers and health facilities, unique health identity, consent framework and universal access to health facilities.

In order to provide widespread access to healthcare, the Budget also has a Digital Health Ecosystem platform. This will comprise digital registries of health providers and facilities, a unique health identity, and universal access to health facilities.

 Finance Minister also said that health and wellbeing were one of the key pillars of an Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-sufficient India).

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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