Online Psychological Counselling- The need of the hour
Before coming to Online Psychological Counselling, let’s first understand mental health and Indian history. Ayurveda, one of the most ancient medicines practised in India as early as the 6th Century B.C classifies most human problems into three major categories - psychic, exogenous, and endogenous. Its psychic branch is also known as Bhuta Vidya and this deals directly with mental health and psychiatric problems.
From this, we can conclude that India is among the first countries who have studied psychology, hence, it is not new to us. However, with time and social changes, people developed a stigma around it that made it taboo for someone to even consult a psychiatrist or psychologist.
Mental health issues have persisted forever in India, more so that the Govt. of India has launched the National Mental Health Programme (NMHP) in 1982 with a mission to ease the availability and accessibility of mental healthcare for all, to encourage participation, and to spread awareness about it.
Pandemic- Cornerstone of India’s Mental Health Mission
This pandemic has seen a majority of people suffering from mental health issues such as anxiety, chronic stress, depression, etc, not only in India but around the globe. However, this has proved to be a blessing in disguise for the country as for the first time we have seen the majority of people come out openly about their mental health issues.
It took us a pandemic to realize that mental health issues are not something to be ashamed of and it can happen to anyone, even the most physically fit people around you.
The problems with the “Indian” psychological approach
Though we have a rich culture and history of studying psychology, because of multiple factors over time, we are at the initial stages of our psychological knowledge and approach.
As per the WHO, at least 57 million people in India are depressed. However, there are many things that we need to fix if we’re dreaming of becoming the mentally healthy population in the world. Some of these things are:
The state of “Psychology” in India
The problem with the “Indian” psychological approach is that there is nothing or very little “Indian” in it. First, please have in mind that India is a diverse country. Apart from being one of the oldest civilizations and having a rich cultural heritage, we’re as diverse as it gets. The diversity is to such an extent that you can observe religious, ethnic & linguistic diversity sometimes within a single state only.
However, the Psychological methods that we have adopted, or it’d be more appropriate to say, on which our Psychological system is currently based, are not from India but exported from the west and particularly European and North American countries, where you can observe the vast uniformity and very little to no diversity within a country and sometimes even among countries.
Now, if you’re thinking that we’re asking to abolish western psychological science completely then you’re taking it wrong. They have made such advances in this field that abolishment would simply mean to step back decades. Now I think, you all must be asking- So what should be done?
India, as a nation, has seen incredible social changes from a century that any western practitioner, who is not familiar with it, can’t give a thesis about. Hence, the counselling needs the Indian context to emerge against the background of tremendous social change.
In other words, counselling psychology should be enriched and made relevant not only to the Indian Context but to the discipline as a whole. The discourse must include the scientiﬁc orientation of Western psychology and the intuitive and experience-based approach of traditional Indian psychology.
Stigma around mental health
The NMHP (National Mental Health Program) of 1982 by the Govt. of India is evidence that mental health issues are not new to Indian culture. In fact, it is among the leading causes of non-fatal disease burden in India. However, the stigma around mental health makes it impossible for one to come out clear about their mental health, let alone visit a psychiatrist or take online psychological counselling.
A study in 2020 revealed that 20% of the young population experience mental disorders globally. In India, these figures are around 7.3% of our 365 million youth population. But, the stigma is so huge and unknown to an extent that these figures hardly tell us any reality and it’s equally difficult to get close to the actual figures.
Repeated studies have shown that young people not only display poor knowledge of mental health problems and negative attitudes towards people with mental health problems, but in many cases, it has been found that they actually have intended stigmatizing behaviour towards the people suffering from mental disorders.
Now, if you are thinking that stigma and psychological approach in India is the only hindrances to psychological advancement in India, well, there’s one more to it. So, what is this Psychologist Crisis, and how online psychological counselling can help with it?
So, as per the reports from the Indian Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, around 13,000 psychiatrists are needed in the country, but we have only about 3,500. This means that we’re far from the ideal ratio of psychiatrists to population which is 1: 8000 to 10,000 but currently we have about one psychiatrist for over 2 lakh people!
To make the matter worse, we’re way down on other mental health professionals' ratios. Currently, the country needs 20,000 Clinical Psychologists and there are only 1000 available. Also, 35,000 Psychiatric Social Workers are needed in the country, but only 900 are available, and for Psychiatric Nurses, we need 30,000 and only 1500 are available.
Online counselling in India- The future!
The growth of online media in India during the pandemic has made it easy for many to take online psychological counseling. People are also opting for it because there are no eyes to judge them this time.
We’re not saying that’s something that is ideal but, it’s at least a good way to start the mental health mission in India, and this would definitely prove to be a great thing in normalizing mental health issues like the physical ones and ending the stigma around it.
Also, if you look at it from the practical perspective, the gas in psychology professionals ratios are very high to fill in, and the pandemic has already added many to the list of people suffering from mental disorders and mental health-related issues.
In that case, catering to such immense demand can only be possible with the help of online psychological counseling. Pandemic has made the majority adapt to the digital way and that’d come in handy in it. Nowadays, there are many psychiatrists and psychologists who are helping the masses to cope with their mental health issues during the pandemic, by providing free online counselling.