In an address to the nation through his radio programme Mann ki Baat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about depression.
This year, depression is the theme of World Health Day, which falls on April 7.
In his speech which was broadcast on March 26, Modi said, “Suppression of depression is not good. Expression is always good. If depressed, share your feelings with others, it will make you feel better.”
Appreciating his decision to talk on the disease, psychiatrists say it will help many to talk about it openly and seek help.
“It is important to talk about depression and understand the warning signs so that you can help those in need or help yourself. I think our prime minister is the first Indian leader to talk about depression. This is the end of stigma related to mental illness,” said Dr Milan Balakrishnan, Psychiatrist, Bombay Hospital.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 36% Indians suffer from depression. According to statistics, while 1 out of 5 people need counselling at least once in their lives, about 6% need medications.
Statistics further show that 20% Indians need counselling at some point in their lives. At least 1% of the population suffers from serious mental health disorders, while 5% to 10% Indians suffer from moderate disorders.
Dr Harish Shetty, Psychiatrist at Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital (Mumbai), said, “Mental illnesses are on a rise. The reason for this is globalisation, rapid economic and social change and institutions not being up to the mark. Anxiety, suicides and other such mental diseases are predominantly found in patients today.”
He said cases of mental illnesses are excessively found in urban areas and majority of the sufferers are youngsters.
“Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses, but many people refuse to talk about it due to the stigma attached to it. It is appreciable that our PM has spoken about depression. His talk will help spread awareness on depression as a disease. It will also help people suffering from depression to talk openly and seek help without fear and stigma,” said Dr Shetty.
In India, depression manifests a lot in somatic problems like headache, back ache, not able to concentrate at work among others say psychiatrists.
Dr Heena Merchant, Psychiatrist, KEM Hospital (Mumbai), said, “While people will gladly accept blood pressure, diabetes or any other health problems they have, mental illness is rarely mentioned. Mental illness like depression is never spoken about in our society as it is considered a social stigma. Also, the fear of getting isolated or being talked about in social circle discourages them to take doctors, family or friends’ help,” said Dr Merchant.