Technology comes to rescue of depressed people

Last Updated 30 March 2019, 09:50 IST

A Mysuru-based business which has traditionally been involved in the manufacture of incense sticks, has come forward to cure depression in India using advanced technology even as medical experts predict that the country could be the suicide capital of the world in a decade.

Dr Vijay Mehtry, a consultant psychiatrist based in Bengaluru, said that an estimated 300 million people around the world suffer from depression, among them 56 million Indians. “This latter figure constitutes nearly 4.50% of the population - considering this percentage is set to increase because of the demands on mental health placed by urbanisation,” he said.

Mental health professionals blame rapid urbanisation for isolation of individuals and the increase in suicidal tendencies. According to Dr Ajit Bhide, the former president of the Indian Psychiatric Society, industrialised Japan, which has some of the highest suicide rates in the world, can be compared against agrarian Bhutan, where people are not exposed to expectations and are therefore generally satisfied.

“The problem in India is that we have extraordinary proportions of anomie in the country,” Dr Bhide said. Psychologists describe “anomie” as a condition in which society provides little moral guidance to individuals.

“People in urban areas have a high degree of comforts and are usually paid fat salaries, but with little time to spend that money,” Dr Bhide added. “Reversing the rising trend of urban mental deterioration means enforcing a value-based education, strengthening family values and other social relationships.”

For Pavan Ranga, a Mysuru-based businessman, advanced technology offers another way.

Recognising the human brain as an elaborate and three-dimensional electrical circuit where faulty sectors cause mental disorders, Ranga said that he sought a means to stimulate the neural network to fix disorders.

“In a depressed patient or a patient, we can see neuron sets which show subdued activity. By using a technology called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), which uses large wand emitting magnetic waves, we can actually trigger or light up darkened neuron areas to effectively cure depression,” he said.

Ranga expressed confidence that patients with depression can be cured following 25 to 30 sessions over a one-month period. Each session would last for 19 minutes.

Other medical professionals, however, are cautious. Bhide clarified that depression is a recurring illness that would need repeat treatments. “In addition, TMS cannot directly address suicide yet – but it can help to address mild and medium forms of disorders,” he said. A 25 to 30 session treatment plan would cost Rs 1 to 1.5 lakh.

(Published 14 March 2019, 17:40 IST)

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