Indian Society on Mental Health and Suicide

suicide prevention in India

Mental health refers to the mental well-being of a person, including prevention of mental disorders, and rehabilitation for any psychiatric disorders if present. Almost everything can have an impact on our mental health. It can be affected by a range of socio-economic factors, organizational problems, health problems, and interpersonal issues. Treatment for mental illnesses is vital, just like any health problem.

Unfortunately, mental health has been often neglected and stigmatized not only in India but throughout the world. A study was conducted in 2018 to gauge India’s perception surrounding mental health and mental illness, and it was seen that in India, mental illness is still viewed with apprehension and resistance.

This also makes it difficult for people suffering from mental health issues to seek help as they are under constant fear of being judged.

The study also documented how people feel about the sufferers, and while more than 75% of participants are sympathetic towards them, 14% of them exhibited fear, 28% feel hatred, and 43% feel anger. It was also noted that more than a quarter confessed they would always be indifferent towards them.

India is facing a serious mental health crisis, where it was estimated that about 56 million people suffer from depression and 38 million from anxiety disorders. As this problem is often ignored, it has become one of the leading causes of suicides.

Statistics show that there have been about 800,000 people who commit suicide every year. The youth have been dying predominantly of suicide. In India, it was noted that suicide was the leading cause of death among those aged 15-39 in 2016.

Suicidal behaviour refers to talking about or taking actions related to ending one’s own life. It should be considered a psychiatric emergency. It can be caused due to various reasons:

  • Having a family history of mental health issues, substance abuse or suicide
  • Being homosexual
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless, and helpless
  • Having an underlying psychiatric problem
  • Knowing or being associated with someone who has committed suicide
  • Having a substance abuse problem

There are various warning signs of suicide that if exhibited, must follow immediate assistance. These signs can be:

  • Threats/comments about killing or harming oneself
  • Social withdrawal from friends, family and society
  • Increased alcohol and drug use
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Impulsive behaviour, or engaging in dangerous activities
  • Talking or writing about death
  • Feeling hopeless or alone
  • Showing signs of extreme agitation

It is essential to first change the perception of the Indian population regarding mental health and illness. They must be sensitized and educated about the causes, signs and symptoms of mental illnesses. The idea of mental disorders needs to be normalized and not stigmatized. This will allow for a more inclusive environment for people with mental illness, and it will motivate them to come forward and seek help.

People who think and are suffering from mental problems, and delve in suicidal thoughts and practices should not feel scared to ask for help.

Various sources can help provide support to them. These are:

  • Psychotherapy – This is a treatment that must be done under a trained mental health professional. It focuses on exploring thoughts, feelings and behaviours to improve the well-being of the patient. It is also often paired with medication to promote faster recovery. Cognitive-behavioural therapy is one of the most common methods used.
  • Medication – Certain medications are often clubbed with psychotherapy. Most common medicines used to treat conditions like depression are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), and antidepressants. Even for anxiety disorders, medication like Lexapro, Prozac and Zoloft are often prescribed.
  • Support group – Various support groups have emerged to help people suffering from mental illnesses. Support groups allow these individuals to guide each other towards the shared goal of recovery. These groups comprise of people who have suffered from similar experiences and have the same condition.
  • Electroconvulsive therapy – This treatment plan is commonly used among patients suffering from depression who may not have responded to other modes of treatment. Through this treatment, electrical stimulation is delivered to the brain that causes a seizure. Although not entirely understood by doctors, this seizure helps relieve symptoms of depression. Electroconvulsive therapy does not cause any structural damage to the brain.

Various mobile applications have developed that provide help to mentally ill people by coming to their houses for counselling and psychotherapies. ZevA is one such mobile application that provides with a wide array of professional psychotherapists and counsellors. By downloading the ZevA application, one can book their desired counsellors for a session at the comfort of their own home.

These are some of the practical options that people who are suffering from mental health problems and suicidal ideation can turn upto. Along with providing such treatment plans, it is also essential to educate the mass about mental health and illness so that stigmatization can be reduced, and a more empathetic world can be created for the patients to seek help comfortably and not hide in fear.