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Improving Mental Health in Indian Cities

By Aditi Khandelwal

Introduction

The consistent stimulation from city living can take a big toll on a person’s mental health. While living in fast-paced urban life has its bonuses but it can be challenging to many people's mental health. Compared to rural residents, researchers have found that urbanites are 21 per cent more likely to have anxiety disorders and 39 per cent more likely to have mood disorders. (Source: www.gwern.net).


Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Mental well-being is essential to our development as humans. The importance of mental health must remain a vital concern for the growth of individuals, communities and societies throughout the world.


Current scenario

Currently, a total of 7.5 per cent of India’s population of 1.3 billion, suffer from some form of mental disorder, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The knowledge about Urban Mental Health Services has always been missing in India. The Indian Government spends less than 0.05 per cent of the total health budget on mental health. With just one mental health professional per 13000 people, most mental health specialists are extremely overloaded with work (Source: National Mental Health Survey

of India, 2015-16). The problem has only gotten worse due to the pandemic. With the number of cases surging each day, near and dear ones getting affected, and amid lockdowns, stress and anxiety are at an all-time high in the second wave of Covid 19.


With the alarming percentage of mental health patients, COVID-19 has also led to a situation of panic in the whole country. Unfortunately, the Indian Government only spends 33 paise, or less than 1 U.S. cent, on a mental health sufferer in a whole year.


Examples of Cities Investing in Mental Health

Internationally, with the lack of social gathering due to pandemic Japan saw a spike in suicide cases for the first time in 11 years. In February 2021, Japan appointed a 'Minister of Loneliness.


Japan is not the first country to invest in improving the mental health of its citizens. The UAE had in 2016 created the post of Minister of State for Happiness, launching a National Programme for Happiness and Positivity to promote wellbeing and happiness as a lifestyle.


Though states like Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh have a happiness department at the state level but still there lies a lot of scope in this field.


Way Forward

All across the world during the COVID restrictions, outdoor spaces have proven to be lifelines of the urban areas. Most of the people did not go to a shopping mall or the cinemas first but went to gardens, parks and open streets.


There have been many research articles that suggest that city planning can play an important role in improving overall mental health in urban areas.


Pedro Calderon de la Barca, the 17th-century Spanish poet and playwright, declared that “green is the prime colour of the world and that from which its loveliness arises”. Furthermore, In the 1800s green was the colour used for awareness of mental health. The green colour of nature found in forests, parks and outdoor spaces has proven to have healing properties.


The arrangement of individual and collective mental worth – especially in the earlier stages of life – is being compromised. With a low degree of resource availability, the current and projected burdens of mental disorders are of significant concern not only for public health but also for economic development. Source: WHO, Investing in mental health, 2013


It's high time that India must invest in urban innovations for improving mental health in Indian cities. From place-making to policy level interventions, there lies a scope of urban innovation in the field of improving mental well-being in Indian cities.


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