Mental Health and Anxiety Disorders in India

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This short paper is about mental health and why it affects teens the most as well as why mental health isn’t taken seriously in India. This is something that’s very interesting and it’s also something that’s really displeasing as mental health issues should be given equal importance just like any other health problem/sickness. Raising awareness can help defeat the stigma associated with mental health issues. The main purpose of this paper is to obviously spread news on this issue. The paper first begins with a brief introduction on mental health and its effects on high-schoolers worldwide. It then proceeds with anxiety in high schoolers. The main part of this paper is about mental health in India, a few reasons as to why it is not taken seriously and what India has done so far. Although India is considered to be the world’s most depressed country things are now changing and in the past few years a few things have actually been done to help out on this issue and hopefully in a few years India will be able to get rid of this title.


Nearly one in three of all adolescents ages 13 to 18 will experience an anxiety disorder and these numbers have been rising consistently. Teen anxiety statistics are at a new peak. Between 2007 and 2012 the anxiety disorders in children and teens went up by 20% (McCarthy, 2019). Its obvious that it is rising year by year but no one is really sure why a few reasons could be because of high expectations and a high pressure to succeed- high schoolers more than ever, feel weight to succeed. Surveys of eighth graders discover that young individuals believe that they need to pick a career as soon as possible and they are continually comparing themselves to others. Todays high school students experience overpowering levels of pressure with respect to academic strength, athletic capacity and extracurricular engagement, based on the expanded requirements for college acceptance.

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i) Anxiety in high-schoolers

High schoolers face strong competition with respect to standardized testing, college admissions and career planning. It could also be because of social media – social media plays a huge role in students’ life. Teens and children today are always connected to social media. Being on social media isn’t a bad thing but research shows that teenagers who use social media are more anxious, unhappy and stressed out than those who don’t use social media. Constantly comparing themselves to others has a negative impact on well-being. Additionally, investing time online on social media keeps teens from doing other activities such as exercising or interacting with their friends and family. Having continuous access to news, information and data can create increased levels of anxiety in teens. It can be difficult to feel secure when we are always confronted with media focusing on negative news (Welch, 2019). For many high schoolers, this leads to higher levels of anxiety. Anxiety can lead to serious mental health problems. Whatever the reason, rise in anxiety is a serious issue for the youth. Anxiety can lead to genuine mental health problems- substance use, depression and even suicide. It can meddle with the capacity to focus and learn causing school issues that can have a lifelong impact. It can also lead to physical issues, such as migraines, digestive issues and heart disease. Teens who suffer from anxiety disorders find relief that’s temporary through the use of drugs and/or alcohol. The plausibility of addiction intensifies when a teen tries to self-medicate to relieve anxiety. Alcohol and benzodiazepines are two examples of substances high schoolers commonly utilize to self-medicate undiagnosed anxiety disorders. These substances influence the brain in a comparative way, giving transient decreases in anxiety. And they are also two of the most addictive and accessible substances for teens. When it comes to teen anxiety early intervention is basic. Parents/guardians shouldn’t wait for a teen to “grow out of it”. Its necessary to seek help as soon as you see red flags or warning signs in their behaviour- before teenagers are abusing substances or engaging in risky behaviours to relieve their anxiety. A few ways in which a parent/guardian can help ais to pay attention to what their child is encountering, remain calm when they are anxious and to change their expectations during periods of high stress, such as standardized testing and even occasions that will make their child anxious.

ii) Mental health in India

According to an estimate by the world health organization (WHO), mental illness makes about 15% of the total disease conditions around the world. The same estimate also proposes that India has one of the biggest populations affected from mental illness. WHO has labelled India as the ‘world’s most depressing country’ (ETHealthWorld, 2020). Additionally, between 1990 and 2017, 1 in 7 individuals from India have suffered from mental illness ranging from anxiety, depression to more severe conditions like schizophrenia. In India mental health isn’t taken very seriously a few reasons as to why its not could be because of lack of awareness, stigma and judgement and fear. There’s a huge stigma around individuals suffering from mental health issues. They are usually labelled as ‘lunatics’ by society. This leads to a cycle of shame, disgrace and isolation of the patients. There is also a shortage of mental healthcare workforce in India. According to WHO, in 2011, there were 0.301 psychiatrists and 0.047 psychologists for every 100,000 patients suffering from a mental health issue in India. In a society that doesn’t take mental health seriously coming upfront and speaking up about it will take a lot of courage as you will be judged. Sometimes your own family and friends will brush aside and ignore the issue and won’t really hear you out. Statistics show that by 2020, India will have the highest population of people suffering from anxiety and depression in the world.

It is high time people come out more straightforward and talk about mental health. The government needs to provide better healthcare facilities, and remove the stigma associated with it. We need to educate people and sensitize them towards the signs, symptoms and side effects of mental health issues, while normalising the idea or thought of seeking support. India still has a long way to go with respect to mental health care. However, with the passing of the mental healthcare bill by the government of India, we trust that the deprived sections of society will have better access to services. Things are changing gradually and positively as many people have come forward and spoken about the issue. The future in general tends to stress out high schoolers and teenagers as people keep talking about how competitive it is to get into college and people most of the time expect high schoolers to be certain and to have everything figured out which is stressful as most kids may not be sure. It is a good thing that many schools have counsellors now so that the children could talk to them in case of any problem or in case they aren’t really comfortable speaking to their close ones. This is something more people need to talk about.

The two bar graphs below have been created to show the response of other high schoolers/ teens just to see if they all have the same perspective. From the first graph it is clear that most of them feel that school is the main reason for their stress although only ten of them have responded with a strong yes. However, from the second graph it seems as if they strongly believe in what they responded with and most of them have responded with a no that mental health isn’t taken seriously in India.

A study in behavioural neurosciences in 2006, said that being stressed out for long increased anxiety. The medical reasoning is that stress hormones, like cortisol and corticotropin-releasing hormone, which help respond to an immediate threat, end up boosting anxiety when stress continues to stay high. When the experience of doing a daily task becomes a chore; when you seem to be putting in a lot of effort and pushing harder and harder but functioning less and less effectively; when you no longer find joy in doing things that you once loved your mind is exhausted, these are a few signs that your mental health is in a bad shape. Indian culture values closeness, family unity and security making it a collectivist society such societies interdependence. Social rules for behaviour are strict in these societies and deviations in behaviour often result in shame while blame and guilt are experienced in individualistic societies. In Asian cultures and societies shame and anxiety are closely related and have been closely related for a really long time. Social anxiety is most common in adolescents and a few factors are trouble in adapting/coping with academics, having few friends, lack of closeness with parents.

Nowadays people aren’t really aware of the importance of mental health. People in India tend to belittle the issue. Many individuals feel or think that mental illness could be an individual shortcoming. India’s number of mental health beds was found to be below the average with 2.15 beds for 100,000 patients. Thus, a major concern in India is that there are gaps in the treatment. In few parts of the nation, accessible mental health resources are still severely lacking. Rural zones/areas do not have working psychiatrists or psychologists. Many researchers show that those suffering from mental health issues may not get the treatment needed due to stigma or lack of access to help. The NIMHANS study reveals that due to stigma associated with mental health issues and disorders nearly eighty percent of those with mental health issues had not gotten any treatment in spite of being sick for over twelve months. (MK, 2019)

iii) What India has done so far

The central government has reacted to tending to mental health concerns with coming out with much needed Mental Health Bill in 2016 which was a year later cleared as Mental Healthcare Act 2017. The Mental Healthcare Act 2017 was informed on 29 may,2018 after an expert committee of healthcare experts framed rules as well as regulations for the states to follow and develop. This acts as a reference point to manage people with mental illness. Significantly only Gujarat and Kerala have a standalone mental health approach. The Act,2017 guarantees healthcare, treatment and recovery of people with mental sickness from mental health services run or funded by the government in a way that does not barge in on their rights and respect. It guarantees that the individual influenced with mental sickness has the right to live a life with dignity and respect by not being discriminated on any basis. It assures free treatment for people who are homeless or belong to below poverty line. The Act promises a person with mental sickness the right to privacy in regard with his mental wellbeing, mental healthcare, treatment and physical healthcare, it also indicates the method and strategy to be followed for admission, treatment and discharge of mentally-ill individual. It clearly states that a person with mental sickness will not be subjected to electro-convulsive treatment without the utilize of muscle relaxants and anaesthesia. Also, electro-convulsive treatment will not be performed for minors. Further. Sterilization will not be performed on mentally ill patients. A remarkable include of the Act 2017 is the introduction of advanced directives which should be certified by a therapeutic specialist or enlisted with the Mental Health Board. It gives people suffering from a mental health issue the right to select their mode of treatment, and by nominating representatives who will ensure that their choices are carried out.


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