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Mental Health Issues & Its Impact On The Economy

By Aditi Bali

Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, etc. are not new to the society. However, they are one of the few topics we don’t address in Indian households. Not only are they least discussed, but also believed to be non-existent. Over time, the awareness of the issues about mental health, and the importance of mental well-being has increased tremendously. Nevertheless, several aspects remain untouched. In 1900s, Dr. Brock Chisholm , the first Director-General of the World Health Organization, had said “without mental health, there can be no true physical health.” Over 60 years have passed, yet this statement still stands the test of time. A person dealing with mental health issues becomes subjected to several mood swings and periods of unproductiveness. It becomes extremely laborious for the individual to be able to concentrate as his/her mind is not at ease. This in turn leads to deterioration of the individual’s physical health as well.

There is an urgent need for the execution of appropriate measures for those in need. If a working individual is facing certain complications, it would affect the person’s degree of efficiency and would provide lesser work satisfaction. It would also affect a firm at a micro- level as with the decrease in the level of productivity of that particular person, his/her contribution to the growth of the firm would also decline. A study conducted in 2016 consisting of approximately 6,000 employees in multiple cities of India, found that 80 % of the respondents displayed symptoms of anxiety while 55 % had symptoms of depression Looking at this scenario from a bird’s eye view, it could impact the gross domestic product of a country. If the working population is not in a condition to work, the country cannot progress. The Human Development Index (HDI) is bound to go down too due to the non - satisfaction, and feeling of displeasure in the citizens of the country.

A study conducted by WHO suggested that mental illness constitutes approximately 15% of the total diseases over the world and also states that the Indian population is largely affected by the same. Due to this, WHO has labelled India as the world’s ‘most depressed country.’ It is not that the people in other countries do not face mental health issues but the fact that they can speak about it openly and express their concerns plays a major role in their speedy recovery. In India, mental illness is still considered taboo and people suffering from the same are often termed as ‘lunatics’ which leads to them isolating themselves and suffering in silence. The stigma surrounding mental health becomes a major barrier for any person dealing with it to seek help. A prediction by WHO states that between 2012 and 2030, India will suffer economic losses worth 1.03 trillion dollars.

Mental health is not given even 1% of the importance that physical health is given, especially in India. Why is it that people going to the gyms are looked at by others as inspiration while those visiting therapists are frowned upon? Not only is this harming those who suffer from it but also those who can cater to the needs of sufferers. Researches by WHO points out that in 2011, there were 0·301 psychiatrists and 0·047 psychologists for every 100,000 patients suffering from a mental health disorder in India. Until the last decade, people pursuing psychology were told that there is no scope in this field. Not only is it difficult for people to accept that they need help but also speak about it and that is only so due to societal pressures. With prescribed medicines and certain measures, mental illnesses are curable however, if detected at a later stage, this could probe someone to take drastic measures such as self-harm and suicide. It takes an emotional toll on friends and family of the victims and especially on those who have survived such attempts. The economic cost of mental illness includes both the direct which includes health care costs and provision of support systems and indirect costs that are imposed on caregivers, family members of sufferers. It also includes the opportunity cost of the output foregone, with the mentally ill not being able to participate in the labour market. This in turn leads to higher unemployment rates.

With the rise in the number of people facing mental problems which is a consequence of drastic lifestyle changes and an immense amount of stress, the productivity of the country is bound to go down. Although several countries across the globe have introduced mental health insurance by realizing the importance of mental health in productivity at the workplace as well as in daily lives, measures are either insufficient or have not reached the right people. With a lack of awareness of mental health, insurance for the same is an alien concept to many. Providing mental health insurance to people is another obstacle faced by executioners. Understanding who to give insurance to and for a situation that cannot be seen physically is even more difficult as there is a higher chance of moral hazard.

A country tackling mental illnesses has a different trajectory toward growth. However, as long as it has the appropriate resources to deal with it, it is bound to see development. India, as a country, still has a long journey to travel in terms of changing the perception and mentality of the society, however, this change cannot occur in a day. Some illnesses can be seen however, there are few which remain unseen and this requires us to be empathetic towards it. Not everything visible is painful and not everything invisible is painless. We need to identify the signs and be there for our family and peers whenever they require help. Spreading awareness about it and creating a safe space for people is the only way forward. It is not an unsolvable issue however, it requires us to display empathy. People are fighting several silent battles and all we can do is just lend a helping hand in trying times like these.

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