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Mental health must become global priority, needs more awareness and right approach

The use of social media as a platform to share experiences, knowledge and concepts has helped generate greater awareness and discussion about mental health.

October 10, 2022 / 06:39 PM IST
Representative image

Representative image

October 10 is World Mental Health Day. This year, the theme is ‘Making Mental Health and Well-Being for All a Global Priority.’

According to the World Health Organization, while the pandemic continues to take its toll on mental health, the ability to reconnect through World Mental Health Day 2022 will provide an opportunity to re-kindle efforts to protect and improve mental health.

According to a study published by the World Economic Forum and Harvard School of Public Health, one in four people will experience mental illness.

The cost of mental health conditions and related consequences is projected to rise to $6 trillion globally by 2030, from $2.5 trillion in 2010, according to the study. That would make the cost of poor mental health greater than that of cancer, diabetes, and respiratory ailments combined, it said.

Mental health issues are not a new phenomenon. However, the pandemic “created a global crisis for mental health, fuelling short- and long-term stresses and undermining the mental health of millions, the WHO said.

COVID-19 Vaccine

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As people around the world contend with stress and social restrictions related to Covid-19, mental health has become a particular area of concern for policy-makers and health professionals, WEF said in the study.

Social media role

With people staying at home during lockdowns and movements restricted, Covid-19-induced stress was hitting people harder. From the work-at-home culture, pay cuts, job insecurity, and work-life balance to forced isolation, personal loss, and survival anxieties – the list was long.

In these circumstances, social media and digital wellbeing apps came to the forefront. While social media helped to educate people about the issue, apps offered a helping hand to tackle it.

As per the latest statistics, the hashtag #mentalhealth on Instagram has over 43.3 million posts.

“There has been a greater awareness and discussion about mental health. Using social media as a platform to share experiences, knowledge, concepts has helped to bring about this change,” said Dhwani Joisher, a certified life coach and psychologist in training.

However, Joisher said many people still hold back from acknowledging mental health issues.

“We’re all taught to be strong. We’re told not to be angry. We’re told not to cry. These notions that we develop make us believe that it’s not okay to be weak or to seek help. We think being vulnerable is wrong. These beliefs make it difficult for us to acknowledge a problem and hence seek help for well-being,” said Joisher.

She also said that some people who do acknowledge mental health issues may not seek help due to stereotypes about therapy. Apart from that, people aren’t aware of the right mental health practitioner for them – should they see a psychiatrist, therapist, counsellor or coach? This confusion stops them from seeking help.

According to a survey conducted in India by Rakuten Insight, a consumer market research company, in collaboration with Statista in May 2022, six in ten of respondents (58 percent) in the 35-to-44 age group said they were actively working on their mental wellbeing.

A survey conducted by the Live Love Laugh Foundation found that the majority of the Indian population reported acquiring knowledge about mental illnesses through social media and wellbeing apps.

Impersonal apps

“We looked at the ecosystem of digital care. We saw that self-care apps had become a norm and solutions were devoid of human care and were all extremely impersonal,” said Ankit Malhotra, founder of heyy, a startup that seeks to make mental health care accessible.

Malhotra said the startup was the outcome of his own professional struggles that impacted both his work and personal life.

“A big plus of having mental health apps is that care is available at your fingertips and with an area as sensitive as mental health, constant nudges are required to improve and feel better, which may be a challenge in the offline scenario,” he said.

However, he said nothing can replace the human connection, so platforms that are AI-driven may not be optimal in delivering care effectively.

Malhotra said though mental health is not a top priority for many organisations right now, some steps are being taken in the right direction.

“Mental health is really low in the pecking order of benefits to be extended to employees. Most organisations would rather spend on bean bags and TT tables than invest in good mental health partners. That’s a reality,” said Malhotra.

According to McKinsey, the global wellness market was worth more than $1.5 trillion in 2021, with investments of over $28.24 million in Indian mental health and wellness startups, the decade’s highest investment in 2021.

The Indian mental health sector now consists of mental health startups ranging from preventive care – among them heyy, Wysa, and Amaha – to mediation and yoga apps, and psychologists-on-call.

Aishwarya Dabhade