The Mental Health Conundrum

Rishika Verma & Anik Majumder, Symbiosis Law school, Noida.

According to Google Trends, after the Covid-19 outbreak began, the search words, 'anxiety' and 'mental health' began to progressively rise to reach their peak in the second quarter of 2020.

In the backdrop of cases such as Job loss uncertainty, stress because of prolonged solitary periods, the problematic relationship's owing to excessive proximity, and an overall sense of powerlessness and helplessness, for instance, sparked on-going conversations and debates about mental wellbeing, its significance, and awareness through media reporting.

According to a report published by the World Health Organization (WHO), mental illness accounts for roughly 15 percent of all medical conditions worldwide. Whether it's cognitive impairment or autism in childhood or adulthood, anxiousness, issues like depression, drug addiction, and schizophrenia or dementia in older years, the world is fighting severe mental disorder crises. There exist a lot of stigmas linked to those who have mental illnesses. These individuals are frequently labelled as "lunatics'' by the community. As a result, these individuals get trapped in a relentless loop of humiliation, misery, and solitude.

Even though India has had mental health laws since the mid-nineteenth century, these laws have undergone several modifications throughout the years. Implementation of the current government's Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 is another endeavour to safeguard the interests of mentally unwell individuals and allow them to choose their potential treatments. Notwithstanding its flaws, it is expected that this measure would bring in a new age of appropriate help and enable individuals with mental illnesses to live dignified lives.

Even though primordial India did indeed have a significant legal heritage, the state's current legal structure has been primarily derived from the British administration and therefore is centred around the English Common Law.

The right to healthcare had not been recognised as a universal right in Indian law till recently. A noteworthy feature is that the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 is India's only law mandating universal mental health treatment for all.

The “Indian Lunacy Act, 1912,” was fundamentally the introductory law governing mental health within India; it then went on to pave the way for the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017.

Previously mental health laws were largely concerned with the confinement of individuals suffering from mental illnesses and the safety of the community. Indian laws also address issues such as determining competency, decreased accountability, and communal welfare.

Mental health legislation has evolved within the last few years to reflect increased treatment delivery, societal shifts, as well as the desire for more transparency from a community that is becoming more conscious of its rights and privileges.

In India, it is reported that approximately one out of every ten people suffer from mental health problems and that one out of every twenty people experience depression, and 0.8 per cent seems to have a "common and serious mental health disorder."

The coronavirus pandemic first began in the last quarter of 2019 and the first quarter of 2020, it posed new and pressing problems to mental health providers and lawmakers.

The study of the journals, tabloids, magazines, newspapers and web trends until the very end of 2019 revealed no indications of insurance companies offering mental health coverage. Interestingly, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on India's lockdown, which began on March 25, 2020, altered the scene.

Mental health throughout India has been suffering owing to the paucity of resources along with budget allocation. It is important to make mental health the top priority by engaging in and incorporating mental health treatment across commercial and governmental domains.

The Coronavirus outbreak has presented the National Mental Health Programme with a once-in-a-lifetime invitation to diversify and expand the nationwide mental health initiative's with an emphasis upon closing the treatment gap for individuals with mental illnesses towards improving mental health, along with suicide prevention. Assessing the overall magnitude of the additional burden of mental health disorders within the community as a result of the outbreak is an integral requisite for the National Mental Health Programme to prepare suitable mitigation efforts. Mental health issues ranging from moderate, temporary discomfort to chronic, degenerative, and severely disabling disorders are believed to have arisen as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Mental health issues have become increasingly ubiquitous owing to Covid-19 Vicissitudes. Numerous analyses indicate a deterioration of mental health difficulties amongst people of all ages since the Covid-19 outbreak began.

After going through a myriad of legal and social changes the revised Mental Health Care Act of 2017 has transitioned to elucidate upon a privilege based approach to providing therapy, treatment, and safety to individuals suffering from mental illnesses.

To ameliorate the legal scenario and implementation of the new act, the government must overcome their existing infrastructural deficiencies while also ensuring enough budget resources. In addition, The State government must establish and maintain state mental health authorities and review boards and finally, there must be combined efforts on the part of all stakeholders with an interest in mental health care.

Furthermore, in order to achieve better social as well as societal reforms, it is vital to identify individuals at risk of mental illnesses and frontline health professionals should be urged to look for abrupt behavioural alterations, drug use, or increased confinement in individuals. Moreover, educators, guardians and family members should be trained to recognise early symptoms of psychological problems, and lastly, mental health issues should be treated by mental health experts, who can use evidence-based mental health therapies aimed at better results.

With India unprepared for an outbreak of this magnitude in the midst of a particularly devastating storm, it remains arguably worse prepared for a mental health crisis and the sense of fear continues to grow. Stakeholders from all across the country must engage in coordinated, inter-sectoral initiatives to combat this long-standing shadowed outbreak.

Views expressed are the author’s own, 

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