Print Friendly, PDF & Email




According to the World Health Organization, over 90 million Indians, or 7.5% of the population, suffer from mental health issues. A study published in Lancet in December 2019, titled The burden of mental disorders across the states of India: the Global Burden of Disease Study 1990–2017, also highlights the scale of the challenge. Mental health issues are among the leading causes of non-fatal disease burden in India; one in every seven Indian was affected by mental health issues in 2017; the proportional contribution of mental health to the total disease burden has almost doubled since 1990; and suicide was the leading cause of deaths among young people — aged 15 to 39 — in 2016. Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s tragic death has triggered a much-needed conversation on mental health in India. The pandemic also doesn’t seem to be helping, playing on the minds of lakhs of people and causing stress.

Status of Mental health in India:

  • According to an estimate by the World Health Organization (WHO), mental illness makes about 15% of the total disease conditions around the world.
  • The same estimate also suggests that India has one of the largest populations affected from mental illness.
  • As a result, WHO has labelled India as the world’s ‘most depressing country’.
  • Moreover, between 1990 to 2017, one in seven people from India have suffered from mental illness ranging from depression, anxiety to severe conditions such as schizophrenia, according to a study. It is no exaggeration to suggest that the country is under a mental health epidemic.
  • More than 450 million people suffer from mental disorders. According to WHO, by the year 2020, depression will constitute the second largest disease burden worldwide (Murray & Lopez, 1996).

Importance of mental health:

  • Emotional and mental health is important because it’s a vital part of your life and impacts your thoughts, behaviors and emotions.
  • Being healthy emotionally can promote productivity and effectiveness in activities like work, school or caregiving.
  • It plays an important part in the health of your relationships, and allows you to adapt to changes in your life and cope with adversity.
  • Our mental health encompasses our psychological, emotional and social well-being. This means it impacts how we feel, think and behave each day.
  • Our mental health also contributes to our decision making process, how we cope with stress and how we relate to others in our lives.
  • Global burden of mental health will be well beyond the treatment capacities of developed and developing countries.
  • The social and economic costs associated with growing burden of mental ill health focused the possibilities for promoting mental health as well as preventing and treating mental illness.

Stigma of mental illness

  • At one point of time the stigma of mental illness was all around the globe. It still exist all around the globe, but is significantly less in Europe, US and some of the developed countries because of the awareness programmes and the science having reached. In some parts of Asia and Africa the stigma still continues.
  • The major focus is on reducing the stigma of mental illness, mainly on not misunderstanding any psychiatric problem or mental health problem as severe mental disorder or lunacy. People with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are significantly disturbed, danger to self or others, and socially embarrassing. These were referred to as lunacy.
  • 100 or 150 years ago society was not concerned about the welfare of people with mental illness. They were put in asylums and mental hospitals for the society’s safety. In the last 50 years treatment methods are available for mental illness which is significant in the last 20 years. Reducing the stigma is very important.
  • Respecting the human rights of the persons who are living with mental illness is important. One of the notable examples is the depression and their commonly noted complication is the suicide behaviour.

Reasons for degenerating mental health of late:

  • The first and foremost reason for India to lose its mental health is the lack of awareness and sensitivity about the issue.
  • There is a big stigma around people suffering from any kind of mental health issues.
  • They are often tagged as ‘lunatics’ by the society. This leads to a vicious cycle of shame, suffering and isolation of the patients.
  • According to WHO, in 2011, there were 0·301 psychiatrists and 0·047 psychologists for every 100,000 patients suffering from a mental health disorder in India.
  • Treatment gap: According to estimates nearly 92% of the people who need mental health care and treatment do not have access to any form of mental health care.
  • The economic burden of mental illness contributes significantly to the treatment gap in India. There are both direct (cost of long-term treatment) and indirect costs (the inability of the patient and caregiver to work, social isolation, psychological stress) contribute significantly to the economic burden.
  • Violations of human rights have been reported in mental asylums and also at homes and places of traditional healing. In India, mental hospitals still practice certain obscure practices that violate human rights. Further poor infrastructure such as closed structures, a lack of maintenance, unclean toilets and sleeping areas etc clearly violate the basic human right to a life with dignity.


  • Stigma and Awareness need to be addressed in parallel in order to tackle the burden of mental illness in India. If individuals continue to view mental illness with apprehension and resistance, it will remain difficult for people with mental health concerns to seek the support they require due to the fear of being labelled or judged.
  • State mental health institutions, general hospitals, private practice, and NGOs can together help achieve the dream of mental health care for all.
  • WHO says if we don’t act urgently, by 2030 depression will be the leading illness globally.
  • In conclusion, be kind, compassionate and empathetic towards all. Everyone is fighting their own battle, some more silently than others. It’s time to add value and enrich one another’s lives. Mental Illness is real, hard, disabling and needs addressal and treatment. People should seek professional help as soon as the need arises. Early detection and intervention of a psychological condition will allow you to live the life you deserve.