Hyderabad: A growing number of children are being diagnosed with mental health problems, and the pandemic has exacerbated the problems in both children and adults. The issues are especially unaddressed among the economically disadvantaged.
With mental health awareness week being observed from October 3 to 9, the stigma and lack of awareness about the issues remain, making it difficult for people to seek help.
According to psychiatrist Dr Gautami Nagabhirava, the most common mental issues for which patients seek help are anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), psychosis, substance use, sleep disturbance, stress, and relationship problems. She stated that, while there is still stigma associated with seeking help for mental health issues, attitudes have improved since Covid. Patients are often hesitant to start medication because of misconceptions such as being drug dependent.
According to Dr Gautami, OCD, anxiety, and depression have increased in adults since the pandemic. Children's behavioural issues and addiction to the internet or phones had significantly increased. "Children are now struggling to return to school and resume offline activities, which is leading to social anxiety and depression," she explained.
The prevalence of mental health issues in children has also been observed in schools.
According to Kavitha Kumari, principal of Orchids - The International School, the most common childhood mental disorders are anxiety disorders, depression, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). She stated that these issues can have an impact on many aspects of students' lives, including academics, physical health, and relationships with friends and family members.
Mental health issues are most prevalent among the economically disadvantaged groups. According to Mujtaba Hasan Askari of the Helping Hand Foundation, which conducts health-based surveys among such groups, in urban slums or economically backward pockets, people's first recourse is to approach godmen or 'babas.' “Psychiatry and psychology is still a niche area for the economically weaker sections and is not easy to access. As there is a lot of stigma, people don’t go unless taken by force. A combination of all this makes their condition worse,” Askari said.