It's Official: Mental Health Not a Taboo

With the proposed launch of National Tele Mental Health Programme, the Indian government has recognized the need to tackle the invisible enemy

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Presenting the Union Budget 2022, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman cited the increasing instance of mental health issues among Indians. Sitharaman said the pandemic has accentuated mental health problems in people of all ages and to improve the access to quality mental health counselling, a National Tele Mental Health Programme is set to be launched. A network of 23 tele-mental health centers of excellence will be set up with NIMHANS being the nodal center and the International Institute of Information Technology-Bangalore providing tech support.

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India has shown a reverse trend, according to "The State of The World's Children 2021' report of UNICEF as 14 per cent of 15-24-year-olds in India reported feeling depressed and having little interest in the participation of activities. The COVID-19 pandemic has further worsened the state of mental well-being of Indians. Extended lockdowns, the feeling of being confined, inflation, and the constant worry for the health of loved ones has forced India to battle its mental demons as the feeling of anxiety, loneliness, and helplessness have been prevalent.

The cultural stigma as well as the denial to acknowledge mental health as an issue has seen the mental health of Indians constantly deteriorate. Adding to the cultural stigma, there are also restrictions since mental health counselling is not easily accessible and quite expensive.

Bhavjot Kaur, co-founder, Clinikk Healthcare, in an interaction with Entrepreneur India regarding the Union Budget 2022 said, "The helpline, that the government is building and NIMHANS in Bangalore is helping, will be very helpful for people, especially helping the middle and the lower segments to come forward and avail such services because unlike the kind of awareness that is there in the top of the economic pyramid, when you talk about the bottom of the economic pyramid and the missing middle, there is still a lot of taboo around mental health. Government coming in the forefront and promoting something and making it mainstream is a huge move and is highly appreciated."

As the awareness regarding mental health problems has increased, more mental health startups have entered the spotlight as the nation fights its battle with mental health problems. The government has started to mandate covering mental health care under insurance. Some of the corporates have been undertaking initiatives to look after the employees' mental health as well.