The whole world is in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has brought countries to a standstill and has stirred up the whole health care infrastructure into action in a matter of a few months. In contrast, a silent pandemic has been forever raging globally and in India. This is the pandemic of suicide and depression. It is estimated that 15% of India’s population i.e around 150 million people will experience depression in their lifetime. Annually around 200,000 people commit suicide in India. Many of them in the young age of 15-35 years. And unlike a viral pandemic which is a time limited event; the mental health pandemic has always been around us.
The approaches to these infectious pandemics include – Test, Trace and Isolate. An active approach to go after the virus and contain the spread. The mental health pandemic needs a different approach of spreading compassion and empathy, to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. The mental health pandemic does not need ‘social distancing’ but ‘social openness’. Provide an enabling environment where a person with mental distress can feel comfortable and reach out for help. Ask and Listen, Talk and Express, Share and Care.
An immediate threat such as a viral infection seems more daunting and galvanises the whole public health machinery. No doubt the world needs to come together to fight COVID-19 and overcome it we shall. Let us fight the new virus in town but can we show the same resolve, galvanise the same resources, gear the public health machinery to fight a much larger silent epidemic?
⦁ Dr Rishikesh V. Behere
⦁ Consultant Psychiatrist, Manoshanti Pune