60% people with mental health issues don’t seek treatment in the early stage - Hindustan Times
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60% people with mental health issues don’t seek treatment in the early stage

ByVicky Pathare
Oct 10, 2023 05:48 AM IST

While one in eight people around the globe live with a mental health condition, over 60% do not seek treatment in the early stages of mental illness, say doctors

PUNE: While one in eight people around the globe live with a mental health condition, over 60% of the people do not seek treatment in the early stages of mental illness; choosing to do so only when the symptoms turn severe and disrupt their daily lives. Many a time, people do not recognise the symptoms of mental illness, resulting in longer delays in treatment as compared to other illnesses.

While one in eight people around the globe live with a mental health condition, over 60% do not seek treatment in the early stages of mental illness, say doctors. (Shutterstock (PIC FOR REPRESENTATION))
While one in eight people around the globe live with a mental health condition, over 60% do not seek treatment in the early stages of mental illness, say doctors. (Shutterstock (PIC FOR REPRESENTATION))

According to doctors, mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and depression are common in a large number of people and while their incidence has increased significantly, both the stigma associated with them and the neglect towards preventive care and treatment remain high. Whereas only 10% of mental health patients are diagnosed with severe mental illnesses according to doctors.

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Mental health expert and former dean of B J Medical College, Dr Vinayak Kale, said, “These patients remain hidden in the community for long as they have mild or moderate symptoms. They seek medical attention only when the symptoms aggravate. These disorders if neglected in the initial stages can later develop into a severe form of illness.”

According to doctors, stress, depression and anxiety are common mental health illnesses they come across whereas schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (manic depression), clinical depression, suicidal tendencies and personality disorders are severe mental health disorders that they come across. Study-related stress and anxiety is common among the youth. Young adults are prone to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, risk-taking behaviours and suicidal tendencies due to ever-changing lifestyles and expectations from society. The pressure to ‘fit in’, dysfunctional family life, and lack of an adequate support system also perpetuate these conditions.

The theme of World Mental Health Day 2023 is “Mental health is a universal human right”. The purpose of this theme is to improve knowledge, raise awareness, and drive actions that promote and protect everyone’s mental health as a universal human right, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). According to Dr Kale, if people with depression are left unattended, they can later go into severe depression. Their day-to-day activities are hampered by severe depression and they develop suicidal thoughts. “Anxiety is naturally present in humans but when it increases, it converts into depression. For people with stress, the mental apparatus of the person and society plays a vital role in overcoming stress or collapse,” he said.

In the elderly, old age brings with it challenges such as memory loss, dementia and cognitive impairment. This leads to difficulty in understanding and carrying out daily activities which in turn leads to frustration, depression and anxiety, further affecting overall mental health.

Dr H S Gosavi, psychiatrist at the Regional Mental Hospital, said that mental health problems are common in today’s world, but there is still stigma associated with them. “People often discriminate against mental health patients, and deprive them of their basic human rights. There is a need to eradicate the myths, stigma, exclusion, and discrimination linked with mental health conditions. We still get patients with severe mental illnesses and most of them have delayed taking treatment during the early stages due to misconceptions about the disease, myths or social reasons,” she said.

Eklavya Foundation’s initiatives on World Mental Health Day

On the occasion of World Mental Health Day, the Eklavya Foundation has announced its commitment to promoting good mental health as a universal human right. The foundation has emphasised the importance of addressing several gaps and barriers at both the social and individual level to achieve this shared goal.

Recognising the existence of these challenges, the Eklavya Foundation has developed several innovative programmes aimed at bridging these gaps and overcoming the barriers. Next year, the foundation plans to focus on implementing several initiatives to make a positive impact on mental health awareness and support.

Among these innovative programmes is ‘Project Phoenix’ which encourages patients and caregivers to share their experiences and journeys through mental illness. ‘Project Phoenix’ aims to highlight that recovery from mental illness is possible and that stigma-free zones help remove the stigma associated with mental illness.

Additionally, the ‘Bahar’ initiative seeks to collect poems that provide patients, caregivers and mental health professionals the opportunity to express their first-hand experiences related to mental illness, forming a platform for creative expression. The foundation has undertaken 18 such initiatives believed to boost the interest of patients, students, and the wider public.

Professor Dr Anil Vartak, president, Eklavya Foundation, appealed to patients, caregivers, students, and the general public to participate in these initiatives. Their active involvement will contribute significantly to our collective efforts to promote mental health awareness and wellbeing, he said. “We invite patients, caregivers, students, and laypeople to actively participate in these innovative programmes,” said Dr Vartak.

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