Mental Health Helplines In India Are Far From Sufficient
A recent incident shocked India. Arjun Bhardwaj, a 23-year old posted a video on Facebook before taking his own life by jumping off the 19th floor of a Mumbai hotel. Perhaps, if his friends and family had recognised signs of depression in him, they would have maybe got him some help and his life wouldn’t have ended the way it did. When it comes to dealing with mental health issues, India is far behind. The stigma around these issues is what prevents people from getting treatment. They think that if they go to a psychiatrist for treatment, they will be considered ‘mad’ by society. When did society’s opinions become more important than our own suffering? We need to work together to help raise awareness on these topics and alleviate the stigma around them.
Recently, in 2011, Sheila Dikshit launched a 24×7 psychiatric service helpline for the people of India. The Vandrevala Foundation helpline number 1860 266 2345 is manned by trained professionals who can help. This is the only all-India 24×7 service available at the moment. Most of these helplines are based in larger cities in India. There are three helpline numbers in Mumbai, but you can call from anywhere if you are having any issues with your mental health. These are iCall (+91 22 2556 3291) available from Monday to Sunday 10 am to 10 pm, Samaritans Mumbai (+91 22 3247 3267) available from Monday to Sunday, 3 pm to 9 pm, and Aasra (+91 22 2754 6669) which is available 24×7.
Other than these helplines, there are a few online websites and forums, where one can go and chat with a psychologist to get help. Some people don’t like discussing their problems or talking unknown people face to face. This is the kind of service that can help such people.
Online counseling and coaching has become quite prevalent in the last couple of years. Richa Singh, the CEO & Co-founder of one such online start-up called YourDost made a very valid point, “Considering the population and mental health statistics in India (more than 5.6 crore people suffer from Depression alone in India), the number of mental health helplines in India is anything but sufficient. Of late, there has been an improvement in the number of people opening up and talking about mental health issues though.”
Mental health issues in India are under-rated. Women, especially suffer from a lot of these issues such as marital problems, depression, paranoia and more and they don’t even know what it is. Sometimes, even if the individual is suffering and wants help, the family members don’t understand these issues. They brush it off and often tell them to “get over it” or “it’ll pass”.
We spoke to Sreya Vittaldev, founder of Humans of Bangalore, and a sufferer of bi-polar disorder, and she said, “not everybody understands mental health. There are people who don’t ‘get’ depression. They simply do not understand how it can happen, so they remain insensitive to the matter at hand. Some of the individual’s own friends and family are trigger points for worsening mental health conditions.”
There are people who don’t ‘get’ depression. They simply do not understand how it can happen, so they remain insensitive to the matter at hand.
MORE WOMEN SUFFER?
Richa told us that 60% of all the people who reach out for help on YourDost are women. A lot of their issues revolve around marriage, parenting and careers. It is a good change to see women reaching out for help on such issues. Even though India has a long way to go in helping people with mental health issues, there is an improvement recently with these helplines and online counselling platforms.
If you or anyone you know are suffering from any anger, sadness, rage, depression, anxiety and other issues, please reach out to these helplines. They are built to help you overcome these problems. There is always hope, and you have to believe it.