According to the World Health Organization, the burden of mental health in India is getting more serious with each passing day. Apart from the physical and mental suffering, this has a direct bearing on the growth of a nation as well. Poor mental wellbeing due to absenteeism, attrition, and other reasons cost corporations in India almost USD 14 billion annually, said a Deloitte report.
Mental health issues are generally not spoken about in India. The National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) study revealed that stigma inhibits nearly 80% of those afflicted from receiving treatment, despite being ill for over 12 months. This alarming statistic reveals the social and economic impact of poor mental health. However, rising awareness among the younger generation and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have made people much more conscious about their overall wellbeing.
In an exclusive interaction with OnlyMyHealth editorial team Dr. Antaryami Dash, Deputy Director – Health and Nutrition, Save the Children, India, explains that the pandemic has caused a spike in mental health problems varying from mild, time-limited distress to chronic, progressive, and severely disabling conditions.
Dr. Dash also elucidates that according to a survey conducted by Save the Children, from June 2020 to December 2021, children’s mental wellbeing during lockdown was negatively impacted due to isolation from friends, with 27% feeling lonely. The study involved 4000 people from six different states in the country.
The study also showed that 39% of the children in the country were worried about illness, separation from a loved one or death during the pandemic. One in four children exclaimed that they faced disturbed sleep as a result of the COVID-19 induced stress. One in four parents also said their children had experienced a sudden emotional or behavioural change (27%) and given up on previous play habits (29%). About one in four parents mentioned aggressive behaviour or punishing their children more since the pandemic began as financial worries mounted, with more than 62% households reporting a drop in income from March 2020 to December 2021.
Ways to help your child overcome mental health issues
As parents/guardians, it is our responsibility to be aware and sensitive to the emotional needs of our children. Children who engage in playful activities with their parents are less likely to develop anxiety, depression, aggression, and sleep issues. Dancing, singing, and playing games are great ways to relieve stress, both for children as well as parents. It is medically proven that enjoying happy moments and laughing together also helps our body release endorphins that promote a feeling of well-being. It also protects children from the impact of prolonged exposure to stress since long periods of stressful situations can affect a child’s physical and mental health. Parents lay the base for the development of emotional and social skills that support their mental health and future well-being.
Additionally, this year the Government of India has budgeted for the rollout of the “National Tele Mental Health Program” for better access to quality mental health counselling and care services. This project will include setting up a network of 23 tele-mental health centres of excellence, with NIMHANS being the Nodal Centre and the International Institute of Information Technology-Bangalore (IIITB) providing technical support. These centres will provide counselling and care using standard evidence-based culturally appropriate tools and will ensure 24*7 free telehealth services to the people.
Responding to children’s basic needs with a human touch, we need to invest in sharing their sorrows, to give them little joys that can make a difference in their lives. We need to remain focused on preparing them, in small ways and big, to meet the challenges of today, in order to protect and nurture their future.