Mental health has always been an issue, but it is becoming even more so in the modern world for a variety of reasons. These include depression and alienation because of isolation resulting from urbanisation, nuclear families, substance abuse, poor self-esteem, sexual and other kinds of violence, lack of general awareness and social support and, mostly, the extreme shortage of psychologists, psychiatrists and hospitals. Where there are facilities available, they are quite expensive and, thus, become available only to the well-off.
The consequence is that persons with psychological problems escape the notice of those around them, which often results in extreme incidents like suicides. In fact, such is the general attitude towards the problem that incidents of people taking their lives are attributed to external, ‘valid’ causes such as problems with loan repayment, exam pressure, harassment, etc. Sadly, these may be the triggers but it must be understood that people in a positive frame of mind respond differently to life’s challenges than those already facing psychological issues. In too many cases where the symptoms and behaviour is visible to the family, friends and others, the attempt is to conceal the fact, rather than seek assistance because of the social stigma attached. This obviously makes the problem worse and deepens the malaise, despite the fact that in most cases these can be fully treated through counseling or medicine.
Amongst the poor, such persons are ultimately abandoned to their own devices and often have to live on the streets facing much suffering for no fault of their own. They end up in serious trouble, sometimes even causing harm to others. The nature of society has become such that they are treated as invisible and noticed only when some grotesque incident takes place. This lack of concern results in a failure on the part of government to take the necessary remedial measures.
It is important for those involved in dealing with mental health issues to raise awareness among the politicians and the common people about the urgent need to establish facilities that can cope with the magnitude of the problem. The loss in human and economic terms at the present is enormous, people are just not aware of it. Professional counseling should be made available in schools and communities. The stigma around the problem should be removed through dissemination of information at all levels about the kinds of illnesses and how almost all of them can be treated or well-managed. Without proactive steps and awareness, the problem will only get tragically worse.