• Ananya Pathak

An Open Letter on the Mental Healthcare Sector to The Government of India--from the youth

Updated: Apr 6

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a ceiling artwork with gothic-styled silvery stars on a cloudy sky, circled by desi-styled gold embellishments. sculpted shapes in the ceiling wall coloured with pale blue and rose gold hues. at the centre of it all, there is a hanging lamp.
a random picture from a 2019 road trip, at Mysore Palace in, well, Mysore, Karnataka {alt text}: a ceiling artwork with gothic-styled silvery stars on a cloudy sky, circled by desi-styled gold embellishments. sculpted shapes in the ceiling wall coloured with pale blue and rose gold hues. at the centre of it all, there is a hanging lamp.

So, in Jan 2022, this year, on impulse, just before my boards, I kinda, well, started a petition with a friend.


It was unsuccessful ofc, because, I was, ahem, in the middle of my freaking boards and couldn't do much about it--but I thought I'd post this as an article here instead. The issues are still as relevant as ever, seeing as the Budget 2022's plan for the mental health sector was just:

National Tele Mental Health Programme 52. The pandemic has accentuated mental health problems in people of all ages. To better the access to quality mental health counselling and care services, a ‘National Tele Mental Health Programme’ will be launched. This will include a network of 23 tele-mental health centres of excellence, with NIMHANS being the nodal centre and International Institute of Information Technology-Bangalore (IIITB) providing technology support.
https://www.indiabudget.gov.in/doc/budget_speech.pdf

IMO(note that I'm no expert on economics or policy or mental health, this is based off of my research and amateur understanding, so please, please, do share ur thoughts, I'd love to discuss with someone in the field or with ideas in general), this is hardly an adequate solution, so here's where I'm going to copy-paste what I wrote for the petition (ignore any grammatical errors and stuff):


People are struggling. People are dying. We need mental healthcare funding.


As teenage students, who are about to give our board exams in February, we understand the importance of mental health. We've had to deal with mental health issues and would not have been able to continue without the support we received--which we are incredibly privileged to have had the access to--so we felt that it was important to ensure that our government prioritises mental health even from the economic perspective during the budget on the 1st of February. This is why, we're taking out the time from revision to start this petition in the hopes that our friends and family do not have to suffer, in the hopes that our fellow students can find happiness and hope, in the hopes that everyone, irrespective of their financial background, caste, gender, sexuality, disabilities, location etc., can access mental healthcare to lead more fulfilling, happier lives.


2021's mental health budgeting was unfairly low--we cannot let the ignorance of mental health issues continue into 2022.


To,

The Department of Economic Affairs,


In the wake of the coming budget, we implore you to take into account the youth’s opinions with regards to mental health funding. Mental Health has been stigmatized for far too long, leading to many citizens being unable to access the urgent mental health support they need. Mental illness and poor mental health impact one's way of life, their ability to focus on work or education and their family’s life and work as well. A family member’s mental health issues inevitably affect their loved ones, thus the well-being of the parents or the children is dependent on the well-being of the other.


As the youth of the nation, it is deeply saddening that so many students take their own life each year. 12500 lives were lost in 2020 and every day more people die prematurely, when timely mental health support may not only prevent suicides but also improve lives by promoting wellness. It is important to remember that while we have statistics for suicides, the people who are struggling daily, silently, suffer consequences that are difficult to calculate the cost of. If economic data is more persuasive to the government than the citizens’ emotional wellbeing, WHO did estimate that the economic loss due to mental health conditions, between 2012-2030, is 1.03 trillion.


It is also crucial to understand how the nation’s mental health ties in with other social issues. Mental health issues disproportionately impact youth from marginalized groups i.e. those from marginalized castes, tribes, genders, races, beliefs/cultures, the LGBTQIAP+ community, those with health conditions & disabilities, abuse and trauma survivors, those who are unable to receive education and those impacted by oppression of every kind. Factors like low income and stigma can mean few are able to access the services they need. To ignore the dire need for accessible public mental health services is to continue to widen the divides in our society.


While academic pressures and uncertainty make the youth a particularly vulnerable group—also because mental health issues often start during childhood or adolescence and can go on to impact one’s education, career and life—mental issues affect those of all ages. Senior citizens, new parents and middle-aged adults, who suffer as well, often lack the resources and information they need to be able to seek help.


Mental illness is not an urban or modern issue either—people have struggled and been misunderstood for years and across regions. Unfortunately, for many in regions which lack access to even basic physical healthcare, mental healthcare is completely unattainable.


Mental healthcare, just like physical healthcare is a basic necessity that our nation’s people shouldn’t be deprived of. It is important for the same reasons--a) to improve livelihoods, productivity, happiness; b) to prevent preventable mental health conditions by encouraging and educating about mental wellness (mental healthcare is not only for those with disorders--anyone dealing with any sort of stress or anxiety should also be able to tackle this healthily) and c) to ensure those with disabilities and conditions are able to access the support they need, creating a more actively inclusive society.


In the 2022 Budget, we implore you to give more importance to the mental health sector, funding not only major organisations, but also finding ways to support smaller charities and organisations that address local needs. It is also essential to support mental health practitioners and students who study in the field, as there is a dire need for more professionals to be at the front of the movement—there are only 1.93 qualified mental health workers for every 1 lakh people. As the nation lacks both adequate infrastructure and human resources to achieve national mental and emotional wellness, we must tackle both.


While the stigma of an entire nation cannot be broken in a day, allocating funding to the areas that matter can largely improve the mental health of the youth and the nation as a whole. This is an urgent plea to save lives and improve livelihoods.


This must not stop at the budget though, mental health should continue to be included as a priority at all levels of policy-making to ensure impactful implementation.


Yours Sincerely,

Concerned Teenage Indian Citizens

References and further reading:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bengaluru/34-indian-students-died-by-suicide-each-day-in-pandemic-hit-2020/articleshow/87638828.cms

https://www.unicef.org/india/press-releases/unicef-report-spotlights-mental-health-impact-covid-19-children-and-young-people#:~:text=In%20UNICEF%20survey%20across%2021,per%20cent%20for%2021%20countries.&text=According%20to%20the%20report%2C%20the,impact%20on%20children's%20mental%20health

https://researchmatters.in/news/disentangling-india%E2%80%99s-mental-health-distress-research-mental-health-india-catching#:~:text=Collectively%2C%20India%20lacks%20in%20research,protect%20them%20from%20mental%20illnesses

https://www.financialexpress.com/budget/budget-2021-expectations-focus-on-mental-healthcare/2180647/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ux14_DEw7Hs

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