Among the many problems an average Indian has to navigate through the course of her life, depression is depicted as a made up problem of the leisured class. While WHO estimates that roughly 36% of Indians are depressed, there’s stigma attached to any mental health problem, with the implication the victim is responsible for creating it and that it can be wished away. It is seen as a sign of weakness and therefore becomes harder to talk about, bringing shame on the individual and her family.
The video above, an illustrated TED talk by Helen M Farrell, explains the complex symptoms, causes and treatments for depression. Mental illnesses are harder to understand than visible physical ones and therefore are more complicated to treat. While the common advice given out is to exercise, and eat right and these are beneficial in their own right, as is giving up drugs including weed and alcohol, but you may still require medicines to balance out again.
Farrell says it takes an average of ten years for a patient of depression to seek help. And these are figures from the US, for India no figures are available in the public domain.
Most answers on this Quora thread on how depression is perceived in India, say that it is seen as a passing phase and ignored at large.
Depression in India's youth is disturbing trend, with student committing suicides with an alarming regularity. An article in Quartz says, "for every 100,000 Indians between 15 and 29 years old, 36 commit suicide annually – the highest rate among the youth in the world."
For most people to even recognise that they may be suffering from clinical depression doesn’t come easy. There is little to no awareness on the subject, treatment that is affordable isn’t easy to find, there are NGOs working in the area but have limited scope and reach, and popular culture depictions of mental health medicines make it look like a really bad idea and further promote ideas of shame and the stigma associated with the disease.
Until 2014 India spent less than 1 per cent of its health budget on mental health. India's first official National Mental Health Policy was released in October 2014.
A recent WHO study suggests investing in mental heath care is a good idea for countries of all incomes because, "the financial returns are more than four times the investment made in treating mental health patients".