The recent suicide of Hollywood star Robin Williams once again garnered a lot of press about the urgency to take mental health issues seriously. Stories like that of Robin Williams often gives people a false impression that mental health issues are a predominantly western affliction where materialism has led people to problems like depression. The truth is that India has a huge mental health issue.
It is estimated that more than 20% Indians suffer from a mental illness. That is a staggering 240 million people. If we assume that for every person with mental illness, there are 2-3 people who play the role of caregivers, we are talking about 60-80% of Indians being impacted by mental health issues!
Mental healthcare has lagged its counterparts in healthcare sector in building awareness among the public. There’s a widespread ignorance about what mental health is and what could be done to deal with problems of mental health. The issue is further compounded by the prevalence of social stigma, which, in turn, results in self-denial. It is, therefore, no surprise that more than 50% of serious mental disorders and 90% of common mental disorders go untreated in India!
A big problem we have in dealing with mental health issues is inadequate access to knowledge on the subject. What happens when we have people who are ignorant? They deny themselves access to solutions. It is not a coincidence that for a population of 1.2 billion people, we have only 4,500 psychiatrists! Because we do not know about the problem and the solutions that exist, we do not demand services and because we do not demand services, there is no supply of service providers.
It is only by placing knowledge in the hands of the people – patients, their caregivers or the public at large – that we would be able to take the first steps towards fighting mental illness. It is a knowledge-empowered society that can demand (and, therefore, receive) better quality services.
White Swan Foundation for Mental Health has been created to fulfill this dream.
White Swan Foundation has partnered with National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), India’s pioneering mental health hospital, in its pursuit to develop this unique knowledge repository.
Before the end of this year, White Swan Foundation will release its first mental health knowledge platform – a portal, targeting the youth living in the tier 1 and 2 cities of India. In the coming years, White Swan Foundation dreams of delivering knowledge on mental health and wellbeing to each and every Indian.
White Swan Foundation is building capacity in creating rich content and developing technology-driven media platforms to offer its knowledge services to people. It has attracted experienced journalists, writers and other communication experts who are shaping knowledge on mental health that a common man can understand and leverage value from.
Most of us seem to have a view on mental illness. We carry the baggage of myths and misconceptions. When we empower ourselves with the right set of knowledge and learn about the possibilities, we realize how wrong we have been. Changing the mindset of the society on mental health will begin with each one of us. Please visit http://www.whiteswanfoundation.org and spread the word.