Mental healthcare in India - the way forward

Rakesh Sharma, Director, AtEase, explores India’s mental healthcare scene and the positive impact of online mental healthcare platforms
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The COVID-19 pandemic has birthed a global catastrophe that no country certainly was prepared for, leave alone India. Lockdowns, rise in unemployment, loss of shelter, overburdening of medical infrastructure and the scarcity of tried-and-tested strategies to curb this pandemic, among other disruptions, have had a significant impact on every aspect of human life around the nation.

However, the deteriorating mental health of the population is somewhat a less-discussed impact of this pandemic, and to truly understand its magnitude, one has to accept its existence before the outbreak of COVID-19.

A national mental health survey revealed that approximately 10 percent of adults showcase symptoms of mental health conditions ranging from anxiety-related illnesses to severe mental trauma.

The Global Burden of Disease Study, a comprehensive regional and global research program of disease burden that assesses mortality and disability from major diseases, injuries, and risk factors, determined that almost 200 million Indians have encountered mental disorders of some form.

Nearly 50 percent of whom experience anxiety or depressive symptoms. And, India is also home to a third of global women who die by suicide and a large LGBTQIA+ community with a suicide rate as high as 31 percent in specific geographies.

During such an unprecedented and prolonged event as COVID-19, several individuals felt the need to turn towards certain unhealthy patterns to deal with their pent-up emotions, adversely affecting their mental health and relationship dynamics. Additionally, it also altered the way we view mental health in general.

It was observed that the pandemic had affected specific groups in society concerning their psychological well-being. Two of them stand out, the first being women and the other being the LGBTQIA+ community.

Studies claim that an increasing number of women experienced depression and anxiety during the pandemic due to the increased volume of household chores and frequent occurrences of domestic violence.

Increased instances of anxiety, sleep deprivation, and loss of appetite in the LGBTQIA+ community were reported during COVID-19 due to a lack of sensitive policymaking and marginalisation, among other causes.

India’s emerging holistic wellness services industry has paid close attention to the groups mentioned above, studying their requirements, and is now offering various solutions that significantly enhance emotional well-being. Some of India’s leading holistic wellness service providers have also gone the extra mile by launching inclusive mental healthcare platforms for women and LGBTQIA+ individuals.

These online platforms aim to provide a safe haven for individuals with COVID-19 related stress, ensuring maximum confidentiality and private counseling sessions with experienced medical professionals.

Let us now dive deep into the importance and advantages of online mental health platforms for women and sexual minorities.

Gender plays a crucial role in determining mental health and well-being. Women are more susceptible to mental disorders than men due to the overwhelming social pressures they have to endure on a daily basis.

Psychological distress patterns are also vastly different for everyone irrespective of their gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, etc., so there is a pressing need for a focused and streamlined approach to treating every condition differently.

Several leading Indian online health platforms are now wholeheartedly committed to adopting a gender-based mental healthcare perspective. Mental health experts on specific online platforms specialise in treating a wide range of psychological disorders experienced by women and LGBTQIA+ individuals, operating with a strong emphasis on gender sensitivity and privacy.

Advantages of online mental health platforms

1. Increased accessibility

One of the many benefits of the internet is that this medium makes mental healthcare more approachable while also being readily accessible. People generally feel more comfortable speaking with family and close friends about their physical well-being but may not exhibit the same kind of openness to discuss deep-rooted mental health apprehensions.

Easy online access to highly qualified and emotionally-sensitive health professionals empowers people to overcome the stigma attached to addressing mental health issues.

2. Affordability & convenience:

Online therapy is usually relatively pocket-friendly and convenient, enabling you to consult mental health specialists at the touch of a button from the comfort of your space.

Additionally, consultations are often scheduled at your convenience and availability. Online treatments also usually incur fewer overhead costs for healthcare service providers, allowing them to offer a flexible and highly-affordable line of treatments.

3. Wide range of therapists

Online mental health platforms do not restrict you to a particular geographical radius, allowing you to connect with licensed medical practitioners from all over the country or globe.

Furthermore, such internet-driven ecosystems enable users to find the expert who best aligns with their requirements, which is an effective option to have at your disposal.

In addition, users can expect continued technical and emotional support from the mental health professional of their preference in the form of texts or chats. Such interactive and long-term care is highly beneficial for people who require frequent assistance while coping with severe symptoms of depression or anxiety.

Final thoughts

Online mental healthcare platforms are ecosystems that afford us a time-efficient, convenient and easily affordable embodiment of effective therapy. It is also a facilitator for professional help available virtually any time of the day from your smartphone or computer without getting stuck with geographical boundaries.

With our lives increasingly becoming digital, it is expected that more people in need will use it regularly shortly.

Edited by Anju Narayanan

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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