By Rita Aggarwal, Rotary Club of Nagpur, India; Rotarian Action Group for Mental Health Initiatives Board of Directors
Priyanka had been feeling depressed since she was in Grade 9, but did not understand her predicament. Her grades were falling, she was losing interest in friends, getting irritated and sleeping a lot. She was skipping school more often, crying alone and contemplating suicide often. When she failed Grade 9, she was brought in for counseling and recommended treatment for depression. Many children like Priyanka suffer from depression, often undetected until the point of crisis.
Rani was in constant conflict with her husband and wanted to die of shame and humiliation because he often accused her of having illicit affairs with other men. Out of sheer disgust, frustration and a strong urge to end her life, she came in for counseling as a last-ditch effort. She was informed that her husband suffered from a mental illness called paranoia. She was surprised that such a disorder existed and could be treated!
These are just a couple of examples of the vast range of mental disorders many people face in silence. The figures are shocking. In India alone, between 60 and 70 million people suffer from common and severe mental disorders. About 50% of severe mental disorders and 90% of common disorders go untreated. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 20% of Indians will suffer from some sort of mental illness by the year 2020. We just don’t have the required number of psychiatrists and psychologists in India to handle the crisis.
Widespread stigma is attached to mental illnesses in India. Parents of children with mental health symptoms might not be aware and misunderstand the predicament. Many people believe mental problems don’t exist. We need a lot of awareness and education about the various mental health problems and opportunities for professional help. We need to develop a positive attitude towards mental disorders and the knowledge that it can be treated and managed.
We must remember that every family, every community is affected by mental health issues in some way. The members of the Rotary Action Group for Mental Health Initiatives share a vision. Our dream is to work for a happier, healthier global society. We aim to make treatment accessible to as many affected persons as possible and prevent mental health problems through awareness generation and community workshops. We act as a resource for Rotary clubs and district undertaking related projects worldwide.
How do we work with Rotarians?
RAGMHI aims to build an association of Rotarians who are passionate and have expertise in mental health treatment. Our members are actively interested in creating awareness, designing solutions and executing programs to promote mental health for children, adolescents and adults, thus helping them to lead meaningful and productive lives. RAGMHI is an international body of 25 Rotarians representing five countries (Canada, USA, India, Brazil and Lebanon) with a purpose of promoting mental health globally.
This is an open invitation for membership to RAGMHI. Presently, membership is free and open to all Rotarians, their family members, Rotary program participants and alumni. Contact us if you would like to join. To help create a resource pool of running projects that could act as models for fellow clubs to emulate, please share your club or district’s mental health projects with us.