World Mental Health Day is observed on 10 October every year to create awareness about mental health issues. The theme for the World Mental Health Day 2021 is ‘mental health in an unequal world.’
World Mental Health Day is observed every year on the 10th of October. It was started as an annual activity of the World Federation for Mental Health in 1992.
According to the WHO, the objective of the day is to “raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health.”
Each year since 1994, a particular theme is decided for the day by the WFMH. The most recent themes have been ‘Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention,’ ‘Mental Health for All’ and so on.
In 2021, we continued to face the physical, emotional, and social challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic brought on. While 2020 saw us struggling to cope with the reduction in social interactions, work from home schedules, and the economic repercussions of the pandemic; in 2021 we struggled to return to normalcy, with things opening up and closing again several times, and the new routines and safety protocols in schools and workplaces, all while we still recover from the sheer horror of the second wave of the pandemic that had hit us some time in the middle of the year.
Research has shown that COVID 19 patients exhibit high PTSD and depressive symptoms, health care workers have very high psychological distress, and psychiatric patients are reporting more intense symptoms than before. Other people too are experiencing more depressive and anxious behaviour than the pre-pandemic period. And thus, last year, the objective of Mental Health Day was to promote mental health during the time of the pandemic.
However, the suffering caused by the pandemic cannot be seen as a uniform and homogeneous phenomenon. The pandemic has laid bare many cracks in our social system, economic inequality being the most prominent of them all. The pandemic did not only negatively affect the average income in the country, it also markedly increased the income inequality. While several thousands lost their jobs and took pay cuts, a handful gained and their pockets became even more fatter.
This increasing disparity between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ greatly impacts the mental and physical health of the people in our country. All forms of violence including but not limited to those based on community, caste, gender, class etc. also impact and exacerbate mental health conditions.
Mental healthcare is inaccessible in our country not only because of the lack of infrastructure and shortage of mental health professionals, but also due to how expensive it all is. In these times of excessive psychological distress, a counselling session costs anywhere between Rs 1000 to Rs 4000, which is more than unaffordable for most Indians. Inaccessibility of services leads to abandonment, institutionalisation (in many cases), chaining etc.
According to the National Mental Health Survey 2018 undertaken by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bengaluru, the treatment gap of any mental disorder in India is as high as 83%. The same survey also found that the number of mental health professionals per lakh population remains abysmally low and varies from 0.05 in Madhya Pradesh to 1.2 in Kerala. The utter disregard to the seriousness of the issue is reflected in the fact that despite four years since the passage of the Mental Health Care Act only eight states have framed rules for its implementation. Expansion of mental health services, framing of rules and the constitution of various bodies mandated under the Act are yet to gain attention.
Thus, this year’s theme for World Mental Health Day is Mental Health in an Unequal World is very appropriate. The 2021 World Mental Health Day campaign provides an opportunity for us to come together and act together to highlight how inequality can be addressed to ensure people are able to enjoy good mental health.
Many people, including celebrities are opening up. Let us all talk about mental health; fight against the stigma as also for equal access for all to mental health care and for an egalitarian society.
Prepared by a Volunteer
National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD)
36, Pt. Ravishankar Shukla Lane
New Delhi 110 001
Tel. 11-23387674; 9868768543