Special report of ‘The Hindu’ on mental health on the occasion of the World Health Day.
‘Depression – let’s talk’ theme of World Health Day today
Mental health is often given a step-motherly treatment in most of the developing countries, including India, according to Roy Abraham Kallivayalil, secretary general of the World Psychiatric Association and president of the World Association for Social Psychiatry.
Dr. Kallivayalil told The Hindu here on Thursday that India’s mental health infrastructure remained severely inadequate and the government spending on mental health was abysmally low. India has only 6,500 psychiatrists for a population of 1.3 billion which gives a ratio of one psychiatrist for 2,00,000 people. In most developed countries, this ratio is 1: 10,000, he said.
He said the World Health Organisation highlighted the importance of mental health by choosing ‘Depression – let’s talk’ as the theme of this year’s World Health Day celebrations to be held on Friday.
“Since we cannot ensure adequate mental health professionals, we should train MBBS graduates in mental health. For this, psychiatry should be made a compulsory subject with examination for MBBS,” Dr. Kallivayalil said. Another strategy was to ensure mental health through primary care by training doctors in psychiatry, he said.
“Depression is a very common human experience, especially when one faces failures, adversities, bereavement, and so on in life. Hardly anyonepasses through life without experiencing some form of depression. But we are able to recover from such feelings, may be in few hours or a couple of days,” he said.
If the depression persists for more than two weeks, it may be a sign of depressive disorder which needs treatment.
Important signs of depressive disorder are depressed mood and an inability to enjoy. Lack of interest in almost all activities, tiredness, poor concentration leading to poor memory, ideas of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness, guilt feelings over trivial matters, poor appetite, disturbed sleep, loss of libido, loss of weight, and so on are various symptoms, he said.
Dr. Kallivayalil said depression, if untreated, would lead to severe personal, social and occupational dysfunction.
The observance of World Health Day with the theme of depression will help focus the attention of governments, policy-makers and health professionals on the value of mental health, he said.