COVID-19 has created a conversation around mental health which is a reflection of the interest around mental health from people’s personal experiences, said Dr Vikram Patel, psychiatrist and professor from Harvard University in conversation with author and senior journalist Kaveree Bamzai on TNIE’s Expressions, a series of live web casts with people who matter. There is a definite change in attitudes towards mental health, he said. But, he added, there is no equivalent of the US’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in India (CDC). “The ICMR’s role is to fund research. It is no equivalent of the CDC. We need a public health agency which is inter-sectoral. Different ministries need to be involved for this. This is a glaring issue in our country.” Across the world, the pandemic has created has created similar risk factors for mental health problems, Patel pointed out. “For example, economic uncertainty — for young people, the uncertainty about jobs and education. In the US, there is data coming from the CDC showing a dramatic increase in the prevalence rates of mood, anxiety and trauma-related mental health issue.” Young people were affected significantly too, he added. Tailor-based approach with the resources available and democratisation of healthcare are the way ahead, he said. “It is important for us to not wait for the data from India. We already had a huge problem before the problem. Now is the time to deliver on mental health across the country.” There is a need to train frontline workers on the foundation skills on mental health issues through digital media, he said.
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