Study Reveals Our Mental Health Crisis But No One’s Batting an Eye

The burden of self-harm and suicides, depressive disorders, and anxiety disorders is growing fast across India.

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Mind It
3 min read
The burden of self-harm and suicides, depressive disorders and anxiety disorders is growing across India.
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“You just have to be happier and a little less dramatic,” is what people tend to tell other people suffering from mental health issues in India. It’s 2017 and many of us refuse to take the problem seriously. So, here’s a national study that puts it front and centre and shows data that should shake us up.

The burden of self-harm and suicides, depressive disorders and anxiety disorders is growing across India, especially in the literate and urbanised states, shows the country's first state-level disease study published in The Lancet on 14 November.

The study measured the leading causes of disability as well as loss of healthy life years, among other things. Among the leading causes of disability in India:

Study Reveals Our Mental Health Crisis But No One’s Batting an Eye
(Photo: Sameeksha Khare/The Quint)

While under the leading cause of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), or lost years of healthy life, in 2016:

Study Reveals Our Mental Health Crisis But No One’s Batting an Eye
(Photo: Sameeksha Khare/The Quint)

On this list of leading casues of DALYs, depressive and anxiety disorders are at 21 and 26 respectively, with ischaemic heart disease ranking number 1.

Anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, and self-harm are all interconnected issues. Anxiety disorders can progress to depression, which is then a leading cause of self-harm and suicide.

Depression and anxiety disorders are crippling and can cause disability, and even hit economic production.

This overall health loss index has been put together after evaluating the impact of different diseases and injuries by taking into account both premature mortality and disability in one combined measure: disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), or lost years of healthy life.

The Neglected Mental Health Crisis

The report clearly states what mental health experts have been screaming from the rooftops. India is in the midst of a mental health crisis.

The DALY rate for self-harm for India as a whole was 1.8 times higher than the average globally for other geographies at a similar level of development in 2016.
The India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative

India is known as the suicide capital of the world and has 63,000 annual suicides in the age group of 10-24 according to data released in 2013.

Self-harm and cutting has become increasingly common among teens in the country. Although it’s difficult to gather concrete data to show this, various studies have established it.

Speaking to The Quint, Dr Amit Sen, Child Psychiatrist, says that this is a result of increasing mental health issues, like depression and anxiety, in children as well as adults.

If the India Health Burden study helps bring the mental health of our young into the mainstream, we welcome it. Among young people in the age group of 10 to 24, suicide is the number one cause of death. 63,000 deaths in 2013 is a grossly under-reported number and it is horrifying. The actual burden must be much higher.
Dr Amit Sen, Child Psychiatrist

The State-Wise Pattern of Mental Health

Experts say that urbanisation is a contributor to higher levels of anxiety disorders and depression. The study displays this trend as well.

One of the categories they’ve divided the data into is EAG states (socioeconomically backward states), north-eastern states and other states.

Study Reveals Our Mental Health Crisis But No One’s Batting an Eye
(Photo: Sameeksha Khare/The Quint)
Self-harm is the sixth leading cause of health loss in these other states, 11th in north-eastern states, and 15th in EAG states (Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh).

Maharashtra, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala are among 10 states that have more problems due to anxiety disorders than the rest of the country, said the study.

When the Blue Whale furore happened, everyone from ministers to the courts spoke about it, but missed the crisis of mental health that was behind it. What we really need is community-level intervention to address the mental health of our young people. The State needs to take responsibility.
Dr Amit Sen, Child Psychiatrist

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