November 16, 2021 0 By Gopakumar

Prof of Psychiatry (Retd), Dean (Research), Kerala University of Health Sciences

Mental health has never got recognition in India as an area that needs to be addressed as an integral part of healthcare. As a result, it has been neglected for serious research and interventional measures, creating a huge health crisis in the country now. Inadequate research and understanding of the topic has also led to limited awareness about the various aspects of mental health issues among the general public. In a way, the pandemic has driven home this fact. 

Two of the most common mental health issues, often manifesting as the psychosocial impact of pandemic-like disasters and natural calamities, are depression and anxiety disorders. These have now emerged as the biggest threats faced by the country in the aftermath of Covid-19. 

The reasons are not far to seek. First, social disadvantages and psychosocial adversities are well-known causes of common mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Secondly, all human beings are vulnerable to these disorders, and finally, pandemics are stressful at the individual as well as the societal level. Therefore the concept of the social origin of happiness is an important aspect that can help prevent these causes affecting people’s mental health. 

 As such, all of us — doctors and other healthcare professionals, paramedics, social support machineries, social workers and the general public—  have a role to play, as the best remedial measure for this debilitating issue is often not sophisticated medical action, but very simple interventions that can be performed by a social worker. 

It is well known that human beings have a very robust frontal lobe, especially the prefrontal lobe. This system is quite sensitive towards the effects of both social disadvantages as well as social happinesses. Thus, when there are societal disadvantages and psychosocial adversities, they naturally result in depression and anxiety. When we are also simultaneously facing isolation, we are deprived of benefitting from the social origins of happinesses as well. For instance, one of the very common origins of happiness is a conversation between two individuals of the same species, which enables sharing of information, thoughts and feelings. So, pandemics and such social adversities put the
individual at a double disadvantage. Still, simple interventions by medical professionals as well as non-professionals, organisations and social groups at the societal as well as individual levels can bring about a big change in this area.