Education and Mental health: two hands yet to meet in India4 min read
Mental health has always been a dish served cold amongst the Indian population even though today it is a very sought after topic amongst the youth. However, the stigma towards it is still persistent and is of major concern, as the people suffering from mental illnesses are on a rise.
In 2018, ‘The Live love laugh foundation’ published a national survey report where they looked into the fields of mental health and illness in India, including aspects of sensitivity, attitude towards mental health and the level of stigma associated with it. There were a total of 3556 respondents from eight cities across India who took part in the survey.
According to the report, a total of 47% indicated that there would be a higher judgment against one who is suffering from a mental illness, while only 27% indicated that they would support one who has the same. The study further showed that even though 87% of the respondents were aware of mental illnesses to an extent, 71% still used insensitive terms associated with stigma towards mental health, such as retard, crazy, stupid, etc.
The lack of awareness amongst the citizens of the country is very prominent and one of the major reasons that mental health is not addressed as the serious issue it is. This could be seen through the survey which indicates that only 10-12% of people who suffer from mental illness actually seek help. It is important for people of our country to know that their mental health is as important as their physical well being.
It is no secret that the Indian education system puts students under tremendous pressure. The top is the only acceptable place according to society and students are in a cut-throat competition to be at the top. Issues such as depression, anxiety, peer pressure, suicidal tendencies, etc are on the rise, and incorporating a curriculum based on the basics of mental health would be beneficial for the student population. According to a study of 700 students from different parts of the country published in the Asian Journal of Psychiatry, about 37.7% of students studying in Indian Universities suffer from moderate depression, while 13.1% suffer from severe depression and 2.4% suffer from extremely severe depression.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also expressed his concern over the growing rate of depression in the country and expressed “the first mantra towards curing depression is the expression of depression instead of its suppression”. This realisation was made after the findings of the Lokniti- Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) Youth Survey of 2016, which showed that less than 10% of students had consulted doctors when they were feeling depressed or lonely. The consultancy number is so less due to the stigma surrounding the topic of conversation, a lack of awareness as well as a lack of professionals and proper infrastructure.
So what is the first step that we should be taking as a country that has noticed an increasing pace in the number of cases of mental illness?
The answer lies within the education system. To talk about mental health is a sensitive issue, and the topic can only be sensitised through proper awareness. However, the best and first step that needs to be taken is to teach the youth, the future of our country, about mental health.
The basics of mental health are an eye-opening experience which needs to be available to all, if not compulsory. The knowledge imparted from it is something that could be used in daily life and would help an individual to take care of themselves and others in their environment.
Speaking to a few Psychology students of Bangalore, most were for introducing a subject to talk about mental health towards the later part of one’s secondary education. These students believed that introducing this concept would make individuals more aware of their emotional state and would also fight the stigma towards the same topic of conversation. It would also help others realise basic signs that the people around them are going through something, and that to seek help is the best option and most importantly, it would also help students deal with the stress and pressure that the education system never fails to impose upon them.
Introducing the concept of mental health or the basics of psychology, to students at the secondary stage of education could also spark interest in the field and lead to more individuals taking it up as a career option. The importance of this arises from a study revealed by National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), which states that there are only 4000 trained doctors for mental health in India who are situated largely in urban areas. The introduction of the topic into the education system would also mean that awareness would spread to the rural areas as well, as education is a right for every citizen of the country!
In conclusion, the stigma towards mental health is something that is declining but at a very slow rate. It is something that prevents the nation’s development on a whole but also affects millions of the population of the country. To address this issue, creating awareness and educating the masses are the best steps that we can take to ensure a brighter future for every citizen of the country, especially those who are suffering from these mental illnesses.
Featured Image and Graphics Courtesy: Sharun Chandrashekhar