Fighting mental health burden

India is witnessing significant changes as a result of globalisation, urbanisation, migration, and modernisation. It is accompanied by rapid socio-demographic upheavals, and these factors together form a situation that could trigger depression. As per a WHO report, India is home to an estimated 57 million people (18% of the global estimate) suffering from depression, and the suicide rate is more than 21.1 per 1,00,000 population. Depression and suicide are closely interlinked as depression can lead to suicide.

This emergent situation could become more grave in the coming years. Therefore, recognising depression at an early stage is critical to reducing suicides and causing deliberate self-harm across the spectrum. With this
alarming rates of incidence of depression, it is necessary we bring in a number of proven initiatives and awareness programmes to address the mental health issues by first helping people detect their symptoms, as, if ignored it could lead to serious consequences.

The signs of depression differ from person-to-person and might vary according to age, therefore becoming difficult to identify if the person is suffering from depression, and to what degree. The signs have to be closely observed to identify the traits. The development of depression is a slow process with no noticeable day-to-day changes and sometimes even week-to-week.

Sometimes a person with depression experiences fatigue, and as weeks pass by, they become moodier. There are chances that it might be because of various underlying emotional issues in their life. But it is crucial to understand and identify the symptoms of depression and seek proper help along with treatment.

Less than half receive the right treatment. With such a vast population experiencing signs and symptoms of mental health problems, it is disheartening to see that less than half of them receive adequate care due to  minimal awareness, non-availability of services or the prevailing social stigma.

Mental illness such as depression, OCD, anxiety, and stress disorders can be treated successfully. But compared to physical health, mental health is a trickier challenge. One of the reasons for this is that people fail to understand their own conditions early. Also, a large section of such people in dire need of proper treatments are unable to secure the right care majorly due to the non-availability of proper treatment. Even if the treatment was available, many might not come forward to seek professional help due to the stigma associated with visiting a psychiatrist and the presumption of side effects of medication.

Treating depression

The medications and therapies might be helpful for a few dealing with mental illnesses. However, as per several studies, the response and remission rates for anti depressants remain low, as a large number of the depressed are treatment-resistant. FDA-approved treatment options like Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) have proven to be very effective in various countries since these options have no or very little side-effects. Considering the positive results achieved by this US-FDA approved approach, it is essential to include repetitive TMS (rTMS) in the first line of treatment for patients suffering from depression.

Around the world, rTMS has evolved as an effective non-drug based treatment option with no side-effects. It has helped thousands of patients to overcome depression, OCD and has proven effective for addictive disorders, Parkinson’s disease, post-stroke depression, and post-natal depression.

rTMS is generally a four to six-week-long procedure in which a patient undergoes a certain number of sessions depending on the severity of the condition. A typical session lasts about 19 minutes and the accelerated
version lasts about 9 minutes. After completion of the sessions, patients can resume their normal daily activities immediately.

rTMS has helped over one million people in the US. The positive results from clinical trials have encouraged the FDA in clearance and acknowledgement of TMS as an effective treatment for depression-related disorders. Renowned institutes like the AIIMS, VIMHANS, NIMHANS and dedicated centres like mindfulTMS Neurocare have undertaken this approach for mental-health related problems. Now with the policies in Mental Healthcare Act, Indian insurance companies are making provisions for medical insurance for treatment of mental illnesses which will help the overall healthcare ecosystem.

With the latest innovations in the field of Neuropsychiatry and the growing awareness about mental illness in society, the collaborative approach is bringing new hopes to people by the day.

(The writer is CEO, mindful TMS Neurocare)

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