Depression ranks high among mental ailments

The maximum number of cases of mental disorders among Delhiites are of depression. Nearly 50 per cent patients seeking psychiatric counseling are diagnosed of depression. The disease, coupled with alcohol consumption and suicidal tendency, is the biggest challenge for psychiatrists in the city.

“There is a two-way relationship between depression, alcohol consumption and suicide. A depressed person takes to alcohol and feels suicidal. An alcoholic is more prone to getting depressed,” said Dr Nimesh G Desai, director of Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS).

“Also, people with suicidal tendency get depressed and start taking alcohol more easily. Thus, the three have to be seen together,” said Dr Desai.

On the urban poor not getting mental healthcare despite availability of facilities in their areas, he said 77 per cent of such patients don’t reach a mental health institute ever.

“A study by the Indian Council of Medical Research from 2004 to 2009 in Delhi, Lucknow and Chennai showed a huge treatment gap, especially among the poor and lower middle class,” said Dr Desai.

“People who could reach a facility but did not were 77 per cent of 10,800 respondents. They understood there was a problem, but either did not know that it was a health problem or were unaware that treatment was available. Stigma was not given as the main reason.”

Delhi has nearly 250 psychiatrists practicing in public and private institutions.

“We need at least 20,000 for the population here. We understand this cannot be done overnight. A general practitioner can be trained in four weeks to treat basic depression and prescribe medicines,” said Dr Desai. Global data shows that incidence of depression among women is higher than men. “Biologically, women have to go through more hormonal changes, starting from puberty till post-menopause, which spans from 12 to 60 years. This leads to possibility of depression among them,” said Dr
Desai.

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