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Future of Mental Health in India

Keywords - Mental illness, Depression,Eating Disorders, Positive Psychology, Depressive Disorders, Future of mental health, Martin Seligman

Over the years mental illness has been demystified and further understood by the extensive study of individuals. This being said the rate of mental disorders has nearly doubled in India since 1990 (Sagar et al., 2019).

There has been an increasing negative focus in the study of Psychology. We have a focus on treating illnesses rather than building strengths (M. Seligman, 2002a, 2002b, 2003) With Freud promoting the belief that under every positive action, there lurked a self-serving agenda. And we as a society also have a tendency to focus on the bad more than we do on the good, “bad is stronger than the good” (Baumeister et al., 2001). I believe the future of mental illness will lie with proactiveness, an approach that increases resilience and works toward the prevention of mental illness.

Let’s take a look at what the state of mental illness is and its trajectory over the years.

Mental Illness in India:

The disease burden of mental illnesses has had an upward trajectory over the years, we take a look at two disorders and the possible reasons why they can be increasing over the years.

Depressive Disorders:

According to a study published by The Lancet Psychiatry, the two mental disorders most prevalent in India are depressive disorders (including persistent depressive disorder as well as major depressive disorder) which make up 33·8% of all mental disorders. These disorders also have a higher rate in females than in males. This discrepancy is possibly due to socio-cultural norms, gender discrimination or violence (Sagar et al., 2019).

Depressive disorders are classified under mood disorders as they are characterized by gross deviations in one’s mood.

A reason for the increase in depression rates over the years could be due to urbanisation, and modernisation, which leads to loneliness. Loneliness left unattended can lead to severe consequences to one’s physical and mental health.

A study published in 2014 measuring the relationship of loneliness between psychiatric disorders and physical health confirmed that in the last twenty years loneliness has increased dramatically. (Mushtaq, 2014) With the increase in urbanization, the amount of loneliness on the job is a growing concern.

A study done on American workers found that younger employees are experiencing loneliness more than older ones. The study among Gen-Z workers found that 73% of them reported feeling alone sometimes or all the time. This study found a correlation between social media consumption and the feeling of loneliness. It found that 53% of avid social media users felt lonely, and that number has risen by 18% over the last year. (Coombs, 2020)

This graph shows an increase in depression rates over the years, it also shows us the sex difference between males and females.

Eating Disorders:

As defined by the APA,

“Eating disorders are abnormal eating habits that can threaten your health or even your life.” They include:

Anorexia nervosa: Individuals believe they’re fat even when they’re dangerously thin and restrict their eating to the point of starvation.

Bulimia nervosa: Individuals eat excessive amounts of food, then purge by making themselves vomit or using laxatives.

Binge eating disorders: Individuals have out-of-control eating patterns, but don’t purge.”

Although Eating disorders make up only 2.2% of the total mental disorders in India, they are the only mental disorder to which death has been attributed directly. Eating disorders are also more prevalent in females than in males in India.

We may continue to see a rise in eating disorders as they might be linked with socio-cultural factors such as:

(1) Conflicts in the contemporary female role;

(2) The cult of appearance, weight control, and thinness in contemporary society;

(3) The emphasis on exercise and fitness in the modern world; and

(4) The glamorization of conditions such as anorexia nervosa in the mass media. (Gordon, R. A. 2000)

With an increase in social media consumption in younger demographics, and children being more vulnerable to images various forms of mass media portray; they are unable to distinguish what they observe from the truth. (Morris & Katzman, 2003) Images, and now even more so, videos can be altered to fit stereotypical standards of beauty set by society. These unrealistic standards negatively impact their body image.

A study done on undergraduate students in Canada set out to study the relationship between college women’s media use and disordered eating, drive for thinness and body dissatisfaction. The study found that exposure to thinness promoting and depicting media led to an increase in eating disorder symptomatology. (Harrison & Cantor, 2006)

This goes to prove that the media one consumes directly affects their perceptions of their own body image and dissatisfaction.

Future of Mental Health:

I believe the future of mental health will lie with a greater focus on prevention. Mental illness prevention aims to help us all whether we currently have good mental health or not. Primary prevention of mental illnesses will have a focus on promoting mental health and stopping mental illnesses before they start. A large part of this prevention will include education and destigmatization of mental illnesses.

Martin Seligman and his contribution to Psychology his focus on the positive features that make life worth living will have a great impact on how we study mental illness in the future. Getting individuals to not solely live their lives without mental illness, but to get people to live life above zero. Where zero would be the line that divides illness from health and unhappiness from happiness. Therefore, a life above zero would be a fulfilling and happy life.


About the Author:

Hey there, I'm Tanvi!

A third-year Psychology student from Fergusson College, Pune, I've had a keen interest in all things psychology right from my school days. I aim to further take up Organisational or Clinical Psychology in the future. In my free time, you'd find me reading, baking, or walking my dog!



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