From The Archives: India’s Mental Health Crisis

It’s world mental health day today -something none of us can afford to ignore.

First the disturbing stats: The World Health Organisation estimates that 1 in 4 people will need mental health care at some point in their lives.

All known estimates show India has a huge shortfall of trained mental health professionals. The last estimate we’ve seen from the National Human Rights Commission says the country is short 30,000 trained psychiatrists.

Psychologists say there’s also no guarantee on the quality of care.

There’s a rise in anxiety disorders, in depression, that often goes un-noticed, or un-remarked upon, until we hear of a spate of young suicides. (More on myths and facts on suicide as well as helplines here)

I’ve spoken to exam helpline counsellors in the past, about the academic pressure students are under, only to be told most calls have to do with relationships! That’s no laughing matter – There is a connection between relationships and depression (a recent report cites a survey of 8,000 American adolescents, that found a high incidence amongst those in relationships…and it’s not just break-ups.)

Leading child & adolescent psychiatrist Dr Amit Sen tells us often teens are just not ready emotionally or psychologically. “There is a deep relation between the way teenagers handle their relationships, particularly close intimate relationships, and the emotional turmoil they go through. If you look at it, teenagers are ready physically to get into relationships but when it comes to their emotional development, awareness of personal space, their social development, they are still going through the process.”

He adds, “It is not uncommon today to have 14 or 15 year olds getting into relationships…in many schools and communities it’s looked at as an ought-to-have, a rite of passage, without which you can be looked down upon. Lot of young people feel pressured to get into relationships …”

I know what you’re thinking – I’ve been there, done that, why is there a problem?

I asked Dr Sen. “When teenagers get into their first relationships, they have little idea what they are getting into. Their notion, through idealism, romantic fantasies, is one of a relationship that is perfect and will last all their lives. That’s far from the truth…both parties involved haven’t figured out trust and faith and boundaries and what to tell and what not to. They get into trouble quite early.”

“Indeed they have frequent break-ups with huge heartache and huge loss in self-esteem, but more importantly, it becomes an all-consuming thing. It affects everything, relationship with parents, best friends, and even hobbies. Teenage years are the years all year hone their skills, find their talents, if that takes a hit, that hits self-image.”

On this study in the US, here’s what he said: “We don’t know whether a relationship is a cause of depression, but a close co-relation. I see many young girls with depression, seem to have got into a bad messy relationship, where there are issues of jealousy, possessiveness, love and hate relationships, feeling entrenched in it, bound by it, as if they don’t have a choice but to abide by the so-called principles of an intimate relationship. Children who become depressed are often vulnerable and open up more, looking for unadulterated love, comfort…depression could be the initial cause of a relationship that is messy. But it could work both ways.”

Remember, often your kids are getting all sorts of skewed messages, whether it’s celebrities or the movies, or TV serials. It comes down to communication!


– by Amrita Tripathi



This blog was first published on You can read it here