With the whole country grappling under the COVID pandemic, health concerns have taken precedence. Amid all sectors reeling under its adverse impact, online activities through digital technology have to a great extent helped in conducting routine business. With surging screen time and lack of social interaction, mental health has emerged as an important area of focus for health intervention. Albeit, mental health has always been a crucial part of healthcare. Clearly, the Covid pandemic has exacerbated mental health problems. In common parlance, issues about mental health have always been stigmatized. It is high time that realisation dawns upon each one, and these problems receive the required attention.
The Indian government recently took up a significant step in this regard. It recognized mental health as a crucial intervention area by pushing its public health infrastructure to cater to mental health needs. Specifically, the launching of the MANAS (Mental Health and Normalcy Augmentation System) app shows the government’s considerable effort in this regard. It has been designed to augment people’s mental well-being of people through the digital platform in the 2020- 21 cult. A national well-being platform and app, it integrates the various health and wellness initiatives of different ministries. It brings to the user scientifically validated, indigenously developed tools with “interfaces developed by various national bodies and research institutions.” The beneficiaries of its initial version are 15-35 years age group as it caters to their mental needs.
Such an initiative by the government is the first step towards shunning away the stigma associated with mental health issues and is clearly laudable. But this is just the tip of the iceberg as there is much more to mental health, and proper study with analysis is required to explore this area more. The government expenditure on mental health is a mere 0.05 percent of its health budget annually in terms of spending. And as a report published in The Lancet Psychiatry in February 2020 indicates that in 2017, there were 197.3 million people with mental disorders in India. Therefore, to expand the scope of mental health and bring every person suffering from such problems into its ambit, the government needs to scale up its mental health budget. Also, in a holistic approach towards this issue, awareness needs to be created to stop reckoning mental health with disgrace. People suffering from mental health problems need urgent attention as these issues are very sensitive and require timely intervention. Investment in healthcare infrastructure significantly asserts the need to invest in mental health infrastructure as well. The growth of a nation depends on the productivity of its population, which further depends on their well-being and mental health forms a significant part of their well-being.
(Tanvi Singal is an Intern with CPRG and studying in St. Stepehn’s Collge)