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We live in a world where mental health is not given much importance and has been a largely ignored topic. But off late, this has been changing. Mental health as a subject is now coming into conversations.
At YourStory’s Health 360 summit, leaders, policymakers, entrepreneurs, and healthtech enthusiasts from India’s healthcare industry, including Amit Malik (Founder and CEO at Amaha), Anna Chandy (Founder at Anna Chandy and Associates), Arushi Sethi (Co-founder at Trijog), and Tushar Vashisht (Founder at HealthifyMe) came together to the mental health and wellness landscape in India.
“Previously, people associated mental health as only something wrong with the brain, they never looked that mental health is both mind and body,” said Anna, Founder of Anna Chandy and Associates. “Brain is just another organ. There was a grandiose fantasy among all of us that the brain can never have a problem, unless there is some accident or some major physical illness, like an aneurism. They never associated mental health or the brain also being connected to wellbeing.”
Anna, who has been involved in the field of mental health for three decades, explained, “Mental health is the foundation of physical wellbeing, emotional or psychological wellbeing, spiritual well-being and intellectual wellbeing. Various aspects of wellbeing spring from mental health.”
While people, in general, have been making conscious efforts to cater to their mental health needs, there is still a lot of reservation when they are talking about mental health.
“We have never been taught and we have never learnt how to express our feelings,” said Arushi, Co-founder of Trijog. “The word mental health has always come with negative connotations attached to it, something which is not looked upon, and that is exactly the perspective shift what we need to create, from illness to wellness.”
Amit, Founder and CEO of Amaha, said, things have changed dramatically in the mental health space. Amit has over two decades of experience working in mental health globally.
“One big challenge that remains is the language used around is stigmatised sometimes. There aren’t words in Indian languages for a lot of mental health conditions. We either use English or very derogatory words from Indian languages to describe mental health. And that itself feeds into the narrative of not just stigma but also discrimination around mental health,” he elaborated.
The pandemic gave people the opportunity to pause and rethink, and that is when they realised that taking care of mental health is as important as taking care of physical health. In the post-pandemic world, focus on mental health is even more important.
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“When you focus on mental health, you are focusing on an essential element of being human, which has been disregarded all these years,” Anna noted. “There is a whole lot of relearning that we will have to take. The underpinning of all that is your mental health, because if you are governed or driven by fear, you will not learn coping strategies. And you will not learn a fundamental of life, that is unpredictability, we cannot be in control.”
Much like most sectors, the Indian mental healthcare landscape has gone through a significant shift in the post-pandemic era. The market which was previously dominated by mental health clinics or counselling centres is now seeing a lot of innovative solutions and digital platforms.
“There are multiple things that cannot be solved if you are not sitting face-to-face. We are dealing with real concerns; we are dealing with transforming these lives in the most effective and efficient manner. While technology can be looked at as an enabler and has multiple advantages, we must also acknowledge the advantage that hybrid gives to the kind of cure and care we are trying to support our country and the world at large with,” Arushi explained.
“The digital world in tandem with the physical world is the one that is going to create the holistic difference,” she added.
Another aspect of human health is metabolic health, which can help us live better lives in the contemporary world.
Tushar, Founder of HealthifyMe, explained that metabolic health is about understanding what individuals eat and how they burn it. “The way our bodies are designed due to evolution is to maximise energy consumption and storage. We are very efficient engines,” he added.
A growing number of Indians are experiencing health problems, especially cardiovascular issues, which is an indication of poor metabolic health. That said, one thing that changed people’s lifestyles significantly was the pandemic and many of them have realised the importance of adopting a healthy lifestyle.
“COVID in the long run will save more lives than it will take away. The reason is that during these two years, it put a lot of emphasis around the need and benefit of following a healthy lifestyle and a mindful lifestyle,” Tushar noted. “It has created a long-term consumer behaviour shift towards a healthier lifestyle. And that is great for overall humanity.”