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Mental health can be preventive too
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Mental health can be preventive too

Dr Benegal’s talk at Mind Matters Summit 2023 addressed pertinent issues around mental health.
Dr Vivek Benegal at Mind Matters Summit
Dr Vivek Benegal at Mind Matters Summit 2023 | Photo credit : Goutham V

The Mind Matters Summit 2023, held at National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) last month, saw Dr Vivek Benegal, Professor of Psychiatry, NIMHANS, shed light on the intricate nature of mental health. He spoke about the confusion and stigma surrounding mental health due to diverse perspectives and knowledge systems.

The enormity of the issue

Dr Benegal stressed on the magnitude of mental health issues, revealing data from India’s 2016 Mental Health Survey. “Almost 11 per cent of adults and about 8 per cent of children suffered fairly significant, definable mental health illnesses,” he pointed out. The study also reported that 88 per cent of the population, at some point, experiences mental health challenges.

Understanding mental illness

As a clinician and researcher in brain science, Dr Benegal shared insights into the underpinnings of mental illnesses. He highlighted four parameters of psychopathology: distress, deviance, dysfunction, and danger. Notably, he downplayed the emphasis on danger, asserting its lower significance compared to other parameters.

Treatment gap and prevention strategies

Addressing the treatment gap, Dr Benegal revealed a shocking finding that nearly 90 per cent of individuals with certain disorders in India had not sought treatment due to a scarcity of mental health professionals and various barriers. He proposed a shift towards preventing or pre-empting mental illnesses using universal public health methods, citing ongoing research on anti-inflammatory interventions.

He concluded his session by urging collective action to amplify, demystify, increase awareness, and deploy early universal interventions for mental health. He also introduced ongoing research into prevention strategies, suggesting a paradigm shift from treating to preventing mental illnesses.

A message of hope

Despite the challenges, Dr Benegal shared a message of hope, emphasising the availability of effective treatments for mental health disorders. He assured the audience that mental health disorders can be treated as successfully as physical disorders, even surpassing conditions like diabetes.

“The one hopeful thing is I want you to have this message that effective treatments are available. And mental health disorders can be treated as successfully as physical disorders,” says Dr Benegal.

A combination of therapy and medication has proven helpful in tackling most mental illnesses. He also adds that 70 per cent people only require low-intensity treatment.

You can listen to Dr Benegal at Mind matters summit 2023.

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