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  • Writer's picturePia Singh


Dr. Satyen Sharma

Sr. Consultant Psychiatrist | Mental Health & Substance Use Disorder

Mental Health is slowly getting its due recognition in the society. People like you and I work every day to destigmatize it on a personal, individual and a social level in every capacity we can. It has taken years of efforts from all sides to normalize mental health and depression.

But did you ever stop to wonder though, where did the stigma began from?

Why was the brain getting sick considered a taboo and looked down upon?

It is human nature to categorize things, colors, objects, and behaviors too. This unnatural categorization of those who behave different from majority was called strange or perceived strange and hence led to the category of ‘divine curse’.

The Mythology

The ancient Indian scripture, Atharva-Veda, mentions that mental illness may result from divine curses. Descriptions of conditions similar to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder appear in the Vedic texts.

How many times have we wondered about the state of mental health patients in history, i.e. before the coming in of modern hospitals? Interesting thought right?

When this question struck me, I found out that in an NCBI article that ‘There are some ancient evidences of propagation of alienation of mentally ill patients in Gujarat and Punjab. Though there is not much evidence for development of psychiatry in the Moghul period, there are references to some asylums in the period of Mohammad Khilji (1436- 1469). There is also some evidence of the presence of a mental hospital at Dhar near Mandu, Madhya Pradesh, whose physician was Maulana Fazulur Hakim.’

The Present Scenario

Cut to present day, in a pandemic struck world, where do you think India stands today? Lack of healthcare workers, and the increasing number of covid cases has yet again pushed India back.

The world health organization states that the mental health workforce in India is not up to the mark and there is a huge shortage of psychiatrists and psychologists in the country as compared to the number of people suffering from mental health issues. WHO states that in India, (per 100,000 population) there are psychiatrists (0.3), nurses (0.12), psychologists (0.07) and social workers (0.07), while the desirable number is anything above 3 psychiatrists and psychologists per 100,000 population.

According to the burden of mental disorders across the states of India: The Global Burden of Disease Study 1990–2017 – One in seven Indians were affected by mental disorders of varying severity in 2017 and the proportional contribution of mental disorders to the total disease burden in India has almost doubled since 1990.

A physical health downer has been explored so much across the world that people have endless places to go to seek help or buy related medicines and consult professionals. On the other hand the brain was made such a taboo that people have no idea whatsoever about taking care of it too.

And when it comes to mental health, the awareness is just isn’t there. So many people aren’t even aware that they may be suffering from form of mental health issues and these statistics show the grim reality.

What do you think can be done about it on a national level?

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