N. Parvati, Kerala Law Academy Law College 

“Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all”

- Bill Clinton 

The 21st century may have brought technological prosperities to India; it may have developed financially and made its mark globally but what remains a bitter truth is that mental health remains a stigma in this country. As per the statistics presented by World Health Organization, approximately 7.5 percent of Indians are suffering from a mental disorder. According to the report, 56 million people in India are suffering from depression, and another 38 million people are suffering from anxiety disorders. This situation in India has worsened much more due to the ongoing pandemic. Adding further to this problem is the lack of investment made towards mental health awareness.

The Union Budget for 2021-22 declared in February has allocated a sum of Rs 71,269 crore towards the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and out of this, Rs 597 crore was directed towards mental healthcare however, only 7 percent of this budget has been allocated for the National Mental Health Programme which amounts to Rs 40 crore only. 

Various psychologists have come forward and stated that after the Covid pandemic, mental health would be the next pandemic due to the increase in social isolation, lack of social activities, and work from home. Even if enough investments are made, awareness about this subject is still lacking. Many parents, to date, fail to recognize this as a serious problem among their children. The frontline health workers exposed to several Covid-19 patients on day to day basis are also developing symptoms of deteriorating mental health. 

Psychologists have now and then suggested various ways to tackle mental health-related issues. 

1. Maintain a strict amount of time to be invested in social media: 

At present too much of social media consumption can lead to very toxic results. A high amount of negative and fake news can take a toll on one’s mental health. Therefore, only a very limited time should be invested towards social media.

2. Regular conversations

When on steps down from the digital media, it can also help that person connect with people close to them. Regularly talking to people will help to ease down the tension and can produce positive results.

3. Being more engaged:

Finishing some pending works or probably doing something one always wanted to do can ease the burden from their minds. 

4. Taking care of physical mental: 

While paying attention to mental health, what is equally important is to have a physically fit life. Having a properly balanced diet and getting the appropriate amount of sleep can also help tackle mental health issues. 

5. Approaching the professionals: 

While talking with family and friends can prove to be fruitful, what is equally important to understand is that professionals in the field of mental health can guide a person decorously. 

Even though mental health has been talked about by many famous personalities, and its drastic effects have been highlighted now and then, the current budget has lacked in providing sufficient amount towards the investment for the mental healthcare system. The National Mental Health Policy, 2014 has also emphasized the universal access to mental healthcare and protection of the rights of the people who are mentally ill however, the system that is necessary to tackle such mental health issues are highly inadequate. 

Even in the budget of 2020, the allocation towards mental health was minimal, and even after a whole year of fighting a pandemic, the investment towards mental health has not increased much, and what has increased is the number of mental health patients. Mental health issues have taken a toll on the young population in the country, and the lack of investment by the government to increase its awareness and infrastructures for the same shall have a direct effect on the country’s economy. Policymakers have to rise to the challenges posed before them regarding mental health. This is an issue that has to be addressed on a very urgent basis, and the lack of attention towards it shall have dire consequences on the economy and society. 

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