As the world grapples with the devastating effects of the coronavirus, Prof Nabhit Kapur, founder of the Peacfulmind Foundation, has warned leaders that mental illness is the next potential pandemic.
In a video released in which he addresses the statistics on mental illness, its effects and the dangers it poses to the world’s population, Prof Kapur said a mental health crisis is slowly unfolding.
“WHO has asked the world not to ignore mental health any longer. According to WHO, close to 450 million people are living with a mental health condition. That is not all. About 25% of people in the world will experience a neurological disorder at one point of time in their lifetime. As per a 2017 survey of WHO, India had the highest number of people living with depression,” he said. “Mental health crisis is going to cost Indian economy more than $1 trillion by the year 2030. This was the forecast of the World Health Organization before India announced the national lockdown against Covid-19 pandemic. The WHO issued a warning in May 2020 about ‘a massive increase in mental health conditions in the coming months’. As if to substantiate the forecast, in March 2020, when the pandemic was at its peak in many parts of the world, prescriptions for anti-anxiety drugs, antidepressants and sleeping pills went up.”
He saidthe fact that the coronavirus pandemic has condemned millions of people to stay at one place has had huge negative effect on their mental wellbeing. According to him, if that is not addressed, then a mental illness pandemic will follow right after Covid-19.
“Even as countries the world over are slowly coming to terms with this crisis, its cost to our mental health is only beginning to surface now. Unfortunately, despite several governments and global health organizations spending billions of rupees on mental health, majority of world population is still unaware of the value of a sound mind. It seems that we have taken our mental health for granted and don’t consider it as important as our physical health.
The mental illnesses are spreading fast, obviously aided by the current state of isolation and anxiety because of Covid-19, but the awareness about almost negligent. It seems as if people are not able to see this crisis with the naked eye. That is one of the reasons why suicides, anxiety, mental illnesses are still on the rise and costing lives. In India, recently, a popular actor committed suicide, apparently because he was going through mental health issues. While the public sympathy outpoured on the social media was overwhelming, only a minuscule amount of people talked about mental health as a cause behind the death,” he noted.
He said a decisive action is needed to lift the burden on people’s minds not a mere rhetoric.
He stated: “Mental health illnesses are going to cost us human lives if we continue to look the other way! Perfunctory discussions, public quotes and spending billions of dollars of money isn’t going to prevent that. What will prevent this human cost is that we care and we talk more frankly about it to people around us, in whatever capacity we can.
The governments and health organizations need to look into this direction while allocating whatever minimal budgets and attention they do to mental health awareness. Our mental well-being needs to be our priority, in public discourse and private conversations.”