There are many out there who consider mental health as nothing but the absence of mental illness. However, as defined by the WHO, Mental health is also a state of mental wellbeing, where an individual can work up to their own potential, cope with normal day-to-day stressors, and make a valuable contribution towards society.
The question we must now ask is whether, in India, the quality of mental healthcare services are consistent for all marginalised groups?
How does the mental health intersect with social inequalities?
Our country has a long history of categorising the society based on class, caste, religion, literacy, and geographical area. This has led to the division of our socio-political system, which is attributed with said inequalities. This gap is further being widened by the COVID pandemic.
Reports from the Indian Psychiatric Society state a 20% rise in reported mental illness cases during the first nation-wide lockdown (March 2020.) Furthermore, due to the sudden spike in the COVID cases, psychiatric facilities were mostly shut for several weeks in across the country, which worsened the situation. The lack of proper access to psychiatric medication and therapy would have further deteriorated the conditions.
How does financial status shape mental healthcare?
A prediction from WHO states that ignorance of mental health has the capacity to slow down India’s economic growth by nearly $11,000,000,000,000 by 2030. According to various studies, higher rates of depression affect lower socioeconomic classes. The primary reason behind this vicious cycle is that higher rates of depression reduce employability, which in turn leads to lower income, which propagates the issue further. Furthermore, individuals with a lower socioeconomic status are relatively more prone to developing mental health issues.
What propagates inequality in mental healthcare?
A study by Oxfam India discovered that 80% of the healthcare facilities in our country are provided by the private sector, which in turn makes mental healthcare unaffordable for a large sector of society. While this may benefit India’s economy in thee short-run, its long-term effects on all aspects of society are far worse.