In the past year, discussions around mental health have come become more prominent like never before. The theme of this year's World Mental Health Day is 'Mental health in an unequal world'. The theme also aims to highlight how access to mental health services remains unequal.
Nikita Vyas, a city-based psychologist and mindset coach, observes that mental health has only recently become normalised and accepted by people who are aware of mental health. "But there is still a majority of the population that has no idea about mental health at all, especially, people who are not literate and cannot use free online services, etc. Here is where social workers play a huge role — to organise street shows to spread awareness, mental health camps where people could easily reach out in person and understand and talk about their issues. Like how it happens for physical health. Along with first aid, there could be a general check-up for mental health too,” shares Nikita.
Government hospitals have started addressing mental health issues by referring to a mental health professional, mostly a psychiatrist but slowly counsellors have been appointed. "I think for this inequality to close down, it will take a long time. Health camps can play a huge role initially in spreading awareness and breaking the ice. Especially, in villages and low social-economic backgrounds. Instead of them coming to the professional for it to become normal, professionals may need to take that first step. If you know people around you like your work help, cook, watchman, etc, may not be aware of mental health volunteer to educate them. Maybe even sponsor their sessions, More than creating an impact, we first need to break the ice, i.e., their hesitation and ignorance towards the subject. It is going to take time but slowly things can improve," she adds.
Samiya Nasim, the co-founder of LonePack — a non-profit aimed at creating mental health awareness, tells DT Next, “Mental health is an umbrella term that affects all of us. It is not a 'phase', it is not 'imaginary', it is not 'rebellion'. Our mental health is defined by our every waking moment. Yet only a select group of people have the access to mental health support and care, in this unequal world. To address this, we must take a rights-based approach to mental health care, while leveraging community initiatives that account for the intersectional nature of mental health. At the end of the day, mental health care should be a right, not a privilege.” While mental health in India leaves a lot to be desired, it's particularly inaccessible for those who are most exposed to mental stressors from systemic oppression. “Caste, class and gender privilege greatly determine the level of access to mental health, as well as societal leeway given to emotional needs. For example, consider startups based on the labour of gig workers. While several of them have rightly given their corporate staff access to counsellors and mental health sick leaves, none of these benefits are offered to their delivery agents. Unless we start viewing mental health through an intersectional lens as a public health issue, it will remain accessible only to elites,” Samiya remarks.