Depression and anxiety are a growing concern in India, with mental health experts warning that the problem is reaching epidemic proportions. India’s mental health crisis has been fueled by rapid urbanization that ushered in fast paced lifestyles and intense competition. This problem has worsened due to the lack of mental health awareness and an atmosphere of skepticism and even hostility towards psychological treatment. Not surprisingly, mental health problems affect over 70 million Indians, with India regarded as one of the world’s most depressed countries.
Depression In Young Indians
India’s millennials are under tremendous pressure from a very early age to perform, excel, and compete with a rapidly expanding population for limited resources. At the same time, there has been a rise in consumerism, with teens and children obsessing over the latest gadgets, designer wear, and other trends that require considerable financial resources. While this has fueled industry and the economy, it has given rise to high-pressure jobs and financial distress, leading to a state of perpetual dissatisfaction.
Most millennials have unrealistic expectations in every sphere of life, right from career prospects post-studies, to expectations at the workplace and from relationships. Social media addiction has exacerbated mental health problems, giving rise to FOMO, short for ‘Fear Of Missing Out’, as well as envy and other unhealthy emotions that affect mental wellbeing.
While India’s youth have greater levels of awareness about mental health issues, there is still a stigma attached with seeking help for mental health problems. Psychiatric or psychological treatment is widely seen as a requirement solely for patients suffering from severe disorders schizophrenia, but not for depression and anxiety disorders that can be hidden from public view. This has made expert help inaccessible to adolescents and young adults, who are most in need of it. Failing to get help, whether coping with work stress or overcoming depression, can be catastrophic as major depressive disorders can increase suicidal thoughts, raising the risk of self-inflicted injuries and death. This is precisely why suicide features as the third largest cause of death among the age group of 15-35 in India.
How Is New Age India Tackling This Crisis
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the solution comes from India’s young entrepreneurs, rather than government leaders. We caught up with the founder of Mumbai-based Juno Clinic (erstwhile Kuzalaa), Davesh for his insights into the problem. Juno Clinic is an online counseling clinic, where distressed individuals can seek help and comfort from skilled counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists. They are also in the process of setting up an offline center in Bandra, Mumbai.
According to Davesh, “The essence of online counseling is that it ensures confidentiality, convenience, improves accessibility, and lowers costs, while ensuring access to world-class therapists.”
As he points out, online counseling is actually not a new concept, but has long been used in the developed world. In fact, a 4 year study actually involving 100,000 veterans, at the prestigious John Hopkins University found that online counseling could be just as effective and possibly more when treating patients. The findings from their study were pretty conclusive.
Davesh started out as a health care investor, dealing primarily with businesses like hospitals, biotechnology companies, and diagnostic clinics. His experience helped him realize that there was a huge void in the Indian health care system, especially in the context of mental health care. “India has come to be regarded as the capital of mental health issues in the world, with reports from groups like WHO suggesting that as many as 36 percent of Indians suffer from clinical depression. More importantly for the working classes, SOCOM had carried out a survey showing that 42 percent of employees in the private sector suffer from either clinical depression or general anxiety disorders.”
Juno Clinic’s founders also recognized that a large part of the barrier to good mental care is the discrimination and stigmatization of people with illnesses like depression. There is also a scarcity of skilled professionals, with the country having a poor doctor to patient ratio and most mental health professionals being located in 6 major cities. “So, to address all of these concerns, we thought it would make sense to develop a virtual clinic, where people can see, speak to, or chat with qualified counselors, psychologists, or psychiatrists confidentially.”
A Promising Start To Online Counseling In India
Their efforts have already been greeted enthusiastically, with a large number of adults in the age group of 25 to 45 seeking help on the platform. Based on the constant feedback they gather, 78 percent of the users have experienced improvement in their mental health. Most patients require a few sessions of counseling, but this varies greatly depending on the severity of the problem and the patient’s relationship with the therapist. Anxiety, depression, mood disorders, and relationship problems are the most common issues, but Juno Clinic’s team also occasionally deals with major psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia, in which case patients are referred to their offline center.
Although reports so far have painted a bleak picture of India’s mental health care system, initiatives like these are still a source of hope, giving us a good fighting chance against mental illness. Likewise, the efforts of celebrities and NGOs to break the stigma of mental illness and spread awareness is driving more millennials to reach out for help both online and offline.
Emotional and mental health problems are not always a sign of mental illness, but are an inescapable reality of modern life. Failing to address these issues can however, lead to the onset of depression, anxiety disorders, and other mental illnesses that severely impair quality of life. If you find yourself struggling to cope with the pressures of everyday life or psychological problems do not hesitate to get help, you can chat now with an expert here.
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