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World Mental Health Day 2019: Survey indicates Indians want a shift in perception of mental illness

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Every year, 10 October 2019 is marked globally as World Mental Health Day. Ipsos, a global market research company, conducted an interesting global survey to map attitudes to mental health. Interestingly, majority of Indians polled are preoccupied about their physical wellbeing (75 per cent), over mental wellbeing (62 per cent). Though, 64 per cent Indians believe that is equally important to have both, physical and mental health.

"Indians are recognising that being healthy and well is a combination of both, physical and mental wellbeing and both work in tandem. Also, mental health issues are like any other illness and it is alright to see a doctor for alleviating symptoms," says Monica Gangwani, Executive Director & Country Service Line Leader, Healthcare, Ipsos India.

How are mental health and physical health conditions perceived in India?

Views were seen to be divided: While 45 per cent Indians believe that both mental and physical health get equal footing in India, 30 per cent believe physical health gets more emphasis over mental health, 17 per cent believe mental health is given preference over physical health; 7 per cent were undecided and 1 per cent declined.

Mental Health: Stigma needs to go!

One clear trend is that Indians want a clear shift in the handling and perception of mental illness: 64 per cent Indians feel that mental illness is like any other illness (16 per cent disagreed, 16 per cent were neutral and 2 per cent were undecided). Further, 74 per cent of Indians exhort the adoption of a more tolerant attitude towards those with mental illness in society.

READ | World Mental Health Day 2019: Theme, Significance and Impact

The survey also shows a more positive and empathetic change coming about towards those with signs of mental health conditions-64 per cent urban Indians believe seeing a mental health specialist or therapist, as a sign of strength.

Views around mental health devoid of clear consensus

About half of Indians polled (52 per cent), disagree, increased spending on mental health services is a waste of money. 27 per cent think it is a wasteful expenditure, while 17 per cent were neutral, 3 per cent were undecided and 1 per cent refused. Also, 39 per cent Indians reject exclusion of someone from public office, on the grounds of mental health history. 32 per cent agree on exclusion. 25 per cent were neutral, 3 per cent undecided and 1 per cent refused.

Can mental illness heal on its own?

Around 44 per cent urban Indians firmly believe that most adults diagnosed with a mental health condition are likely to get better without a doctor's intervention of the doctor, whereas about 29 per cent disagreed. Around 21 per cent were neutral while 5 per cent were undecided and 1 per cent refused.

Similarly, for children, at least 42 per cent urban Indians believe that children diagnosed with mental health condition would get better in due course without the intervention of doctors. Though 31 per cent seemed to disagree. 23 per cent were neutral, 3 per cent undecided and 1 per cent refused to answer.

"Meditation and alternative therapies are known to aid in the healing process in case of mental trauma and distress," adds Gangwani.

Some of the top areas listed by Indians for mental wellbeing were:

  • The level of involvement with local groups and activities
  • Exercise
  • Home
  • Relationship with family and friends etc.

The survey also explored areas that have a direct bearing on mental wellbeing. Like relaxation, physical exercise, being outdoors, quality sleep, work-life balance, finances, home, neighbourhood, bond with family and friends, eating and drinking habits, say in decision making, involvement in local activities etc.