Youth mental health is not a topic that is widely discussed, yet it is one of the most critical issues facing young people in the country today. However, there are several challenges that youth mental health programs face in the country, ranging from lack of awareness to limited funding and a lack of effective policies. This article takes a look at some of these challenges, as well as how the country can take steps to improve the health of its youth.
Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on young people’s mental health in India
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the mental health of millions of people in India. It is also believed to have led to a spike in suicide rates.
One in every seven youths aged 15 to 24 reported feeling depressed during the pandemic. The government of India has issued state-specific intervention strategies. However, the country’s healthcare system is not yet prepared to cope with a widespread mental health crisis.
Among the most vulnerable are children, elderly people, and healthcare workers. In addition, social isolation can have negative consequences for mental health.
The ‘ArogyaSetu’ mobile application helps to assess the health of a person. Similarly, the World Health Organization defines mental health as a state of being that is capable of dealing with the normal stresses of life.
Several studies conducted in India have highlighted the significant impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of young people. They analyzed the prevalence of depression, anxiety, and fear of the disease.
A survey on the effects of COVID-19 on students revealed that a high percentage of respondents were afraid of the disease. In addition, students from several racial groups reported high levels of racism. This was not surprising, as there has been a link between experiences of racism and poor academic performance.
Challenges to youth mental health programs in India
The mental health of young individuals in India is a growing concern. According to the National Mental Health Survey, 7% of adolescents and 12% of young adults suffer from psychiatric disorders. This is a serious problem, especially since youth account for nearly a quarter of the population.
To address this, India’s government has introduced the Mental Healthcare Act (MHCA) 2017. It provides a comprehensive approach to meet the mental health needs of adolescents in India. The MHCA has a five-fold approach: promoting a rights-based approach, prevention of self-harm, violence prevention, community-level awareness, and prevention of substance use.
However, the implementation of the MHCA has posed challenges, particularly in terms of ensuring sustainable intersectoral integration of mental health across youth-oriented services. In addition, adolescent stigma is a key barrier to effective treatment.
Several efforts have been undertaken to address this challenge, including a national suicide prevention program and a multi-component whole school intervention. Both programs have had positive impacts on students. But a systematic review has yet to be conducted on these approaches.
One promising intervention is a transdiagnostic, low-intensity psychological intervention. It’s based on the stepped care model used in Indian schools. Designed to improve problem-solving skills, this study was implemented by less experienced counsellors and counselor assistants for three to four weeks. During the intervention, participants were required to participate in a structured peer group supervision and classroom sessions. These interventions resulted in reductions in negative cognitions, academic stress, and depression.
Untapped opportunities to provide a comprehensive response to meet young people’s mental health needs in the country
Despite a significant increase in the number of youths suffering from mental health disorders, there are still untapped opportunities to provide a comprehensive response to meet their mental health needs. While a range of systemic barriers restrict the scope of policy initiatives aimed at youth, a number of OECD countries are implementing policies which address some of the key factors underlying their crisis.
For example, a large-scale engagement of young people in community service initiatives has been shown to promote emotional health promotion and improve self-esteem. However, the extent to which these programs achieve their intended effects depends on the scope and extent of programmatic frameworks and resources available.
Similarly, the implementation of policies can differ depending on the priorities of each state and the availability of resources. In addition, the geographic vastness of the country also presents additional challenges for translating policies into action.
The most effective approach to overcoming these challenges is through meaningful local actions. This includes leveraging the administrative capacities of existing programmatic frameworks and developing sustainable networks within the community to facilitate suicide prevention.
Suicide is one of the leading causes of death among youth in many OECD countries. Therefore, countries should continue to invest in suicide prevention policies. Also, they should develop a rights-based approach.