Even before Indian announced a national lockdown for COVID-19 pandemic, WHO had warned that a mental health crisis was going to cost Indian economy more than $1 trillion by the year 2030. This forecast can only be expected to get worse because the lockdown, where everything has come to a standstill, has aggravated the situation. In fact, 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.

According to a new study, US healthcare workers were dealing with a range of mental-health challenges arising out of the pandemic. One of these challenges is clinical depression, aggravated by the fact that the healthcare professionals had reported symptoms of depression across the country. The study was conducted by the School of Psychology at Georgia Institute of Technology. Shevaun Neupert, a psychology professor at North Carolina State University, who also co-authored the paper, revealed, “What we learned suggests that anyone who identifies as a healthcare professional – whether it is a physician or a support worker in a hospital – is at risk for mental-health problems that could be devastating if left untreated.”

The situation is no different anywhere else. Though countries are slowly coming to terms with the Corona virus situation, several governments and global health organizations continue to spend billions of rupees on mental health treatments, even as the majority of world population continues to be unaware of the issue. They don’t realize the importance of a sound mind and have taken the issue of mental health for granted.

Prof. Nabhit Kapur, Founder-President of New Delhi-based Peacful Mind Foundation (PMF) is dedicated to creating awareness about the mental health crisis that threatens to engulf communities everywhere in the world. About the current crisis, he says, “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. It isn’t hard to imagine what would be the case at the grassroots level!”

His Peacful Mind Foundation is a global organization, registered with the UN Global compact, PMF is today recognized as one of the most successful mental health forums in the world. Its Global Youth Mental Health Forum (GYMHF), PeacfulMindMentors, Mental Health open mic, PMF Covid19 warriors, are a path-breaking platform to train people and youth in administering psychological first aid.

Prof. Kapur has suggested 3 main things to do in order to ascertain the reach of the mental health crisis around you. First of all, you need to openly and consistently talk about this issue to those around you, whether in your family, workplace or friend circle. Speak out, express, being non-judgmental etc are pre-requisite for a sound mind. Next step is for the authorities and organizations to train managers on mental health, because they need to be sensitized and equipped with the right tools to deal with problems arising out of it. Third thing is that there is no “one-size-fits-all” method. Each mental health issue is unique and the treatment needs to be done accordingly.

Currently, there is a direct need to identify the underlying factors leading to rise in the mental health burden and to remove the same. Our first priority as a nation should be to remove the stigma attached to this disease. With the frontline workers amid Corona virus outbreak more at risk of infection as well as often being overworked, mental health issues are only going to accentuate. Therefore, we need to identify and alienate these issues beforehand. Thereafter, we need to locate the causes of high stress and address those too.

Mental health issues 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.