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 Table of Contents    
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 63  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-4
Mental Health Matters: Celebrating 1st foundation day of Indian psychiatric society

1 Senior Consultant, Fortis Hospital, Mohali, Punjab, India
2 Department of Psychiatry, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India
3 Department of Psychiatry, K. G. Medical University, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India

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Date of Submission21-Jan-2021
Date of Acceptance21-Jan-2021
Date of Web Publication15-Feb-2021

How to cite this article:
Malhotra S, Deb KS, Dalal PK. Mental Health Matters: Celebrating 1st foundation day of Indian psychiatric society. Indian J Psychiatry 2021;63:1-4

How to cite this URL:
Malhotra S, Deb KS, Dalal PK. Mental Health Matters: Celebrating 1st foundation day of Indian psychiatric society. Indian J Psychiatry [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 Nov 29];63:1-4. Available from:

It is a matter of great pleasure and pride for Indian psychiatry that the first-ever Foundation Day of the Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS) is being celebrated on January 7, 2021 at Patna. Memorializing the foundation day is a time-honored tradition of most societies. The World Health Day, celebrated every year on April 7, since 1950, marks the founding of the World Health Organization. The WHO and its partner organizations coordinate international, regional, and local events on the day, promoting various aspects of health and health care.[1] The WHO also celebrates the World Mental Health Day every year on October 10, with the “overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health.”[2]

The day January 7, marks the conception of the IPS. Although the idea of starting a national society of Indian psychiatrists was first mooted by Dr. Banarasi Das, the then superintendent of Agra Mental Hospital way back in 1935,[3] on January 7, 1947, at the 34th Indian Science Congress in Delhi, a group of 13 psychiatrists met and decided to form the IPS. On January 2, 1948, the first Annual General Body Meeting of the Society was held at Patna, with Dr. N. N. De as the President and Editor and with Dr. R. B. Davis as Secretary and Treasurer of the Association. The meeting was attended by ten fellows of the society, and the constitution and bylaws of IPS were formed and approved at the meeting. The society was finally registered on December 30, 1948 at Patna, making IPS the 4th oldest professional organization of the nation. Since 1948, the IPS has functioned continuously in upholding the objectives of the society of promoting and advancing the subject of Psychiatry and improving of the mental health of the people. The IPS foundation day celebration is our homage for the past members, and it is, therefore, appropriate, that the celebration of the first foundation day is conducted at the ancient city of Patna, or Pataliputra, where it all started.

During the fifth national conference of the IPS in 1951 at Ranchi, Hon. Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, the then health minister, Government of India, stressed on the need for a “mental hygiene programme… to lessen the tensions which exist in communities, within nations and between nations themselves and which threaten to lead to consequences disastrous to mankind.”[4]

It was, therefore, with an understanding of the fundamental principle of the Society, that Prof. PK Dalal, the elected President of the IPS (2020)[5] for the first time in the history of IPS put forward the proposal of celebrating the foundation day of the association on the January 7, every year. Creating awareness and education while dispelling myths and stigma, and “promotion of the mental health of people,” a core objective of IPS, became a natural choice for foundation day activities.[6] While the purpose of the Annual National Conference of the Society has always been to share expertise and experience among peers, the Foundation Day activities are intended for creating awareness and impact on the society and among the public on matters related to mental health.

The theme chosen for this year “Mental Health Matters” carries a special significance. Amidst the all-consuming global COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, it is a clarion call to not forget the ongoing associated silent mental health crisis.[7] Indeed “Mental Health Matters” is not merely an aphorism for the present time. It is a truism of medicine that represents the essence of the whole being. Mental health not only matters but always matters the most in every aspect of everyone's life. The mantra, “Mental Health Matters” has, therefore, been eulogized by multiple other organizations across the world in 2020, underscoring its topicality. For example, “Mental Health Matters” was the theme of the National Mental Health Awareness Campaign of the Mental Health Foundation of Australia in 2020.[8] The campaign promoted a month long activity raising awareness; providing education; advocacy; fostering mental health resilience; and providing mental health support.

Understanding why “Mental Health Matters” requires a retelling of the concept of mental health. The ancient Indian scriptures of the Vedas and Upanishads described a mentally healthy person as one who was in “harmony among one's role functions, one's abilities and limitations, prevailing circumstances and righteous means, with sincerity and honesty, hope and confidence, and contentment.”[9] There is mention of four “purusharthas” in Upnishads that provide the meaning and purpose to human life. These are Dharma, Arth, Kama, and Moksha.

  • Dharma: To act virtuously, righteously, morally, and ethically. To lead a life of self-discipline and right action
  • Artha: Pursuit of wealth, prosperity, and gain
  • Kama: Pursuit of pleasure, enjoyment, desires, and fulfillment of senses
  • Moksha: Attainment of enlightenment, liberation, and self-realization.

These are the highest ideals to be achieved in life and provide structure and meaning to life.

It is evident that one needs good mental health to pursue these objectives and observance of these pursuits can impart good mental health. This holistic and wholesome approach to mental health underscored long back the vast scope of what “being healthy” meant.

In 1948, when the World Health Organization defined health as “… a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity,”[10],[11] it also similarly reiterated the interdependence of mental, physical, and social health and allured to a broader meaning of health beyond infirmity. Mental “health,” therefore, signified not only the absence of disease but also incorporated a state of mental “well-being.” Well-being encompassed several positive attributes such as happiness, satisfaction, optimism, confidence, self-realization, contentment, and creativity. Further, wellness and illness do not represent merely the opposite ends of a single continuum but are different components of the whole.[12] Resilience to everyday and extraordinary stress, a cornerstone in coping with the pandemic depends on this facet of mental well-being.

Combining these two dimensions, it is easy to understand why “mental health really matters.” Mental health is related to every aspect of life. It affects how we think, feel, perceive, and act and determines how we handle stress, make choices, and relate to others. It affects every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood and beyond. Mental health forms the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle. Unhealthy lifestyles such as smoking, alcohol use, use of illicit substances, consumption of sugar and high-calorie foods, overeating, excessive use of the Internet and smartphones, and behavioral addictions constitute a major risk to health. Adverse life circumstances and environmental conditions that lead to these unhealthy lifestyles unleash a vicious cycle of mental morbidity and social pathology affecting the well-being of the whole nation. Mental illness, thus, forms a cause, as well as a consequence of social inequality and marginalization.

Further, mental illness and physical illness are inextricably linked. The dichotomy of the physical and the mental realms are superficial and mental health matters in even the most physical understanding of what constitutes good “health.” Mental health problems like anxiety and depression precede many physical disorders and most physical illnesses, such as hypertension and diabetes, are associated with a higher occurrence of mental disorders.[13],[14],[15] Mental illnesses adversely affect the outcome of physical disorders, including the time to recovery, length of hospitalization, and mortality.[16] Conversely, persons with mental disorders have higher rates of physical illness and premature death. Evidence suggests that improving mental well-being can contribute substantially to improving physical health and reducing morbidity and mortality.[17]

There has been a growing recognition of this importance of mental health in the current times, with a global call to strengthen mental health services across nations. The 2020 Mental Health Day campaign theme of the WHO and the World Federation for Mental Health has been “Move for Mental Health: Let's invest” highlighting the need for mental health care investment.[18] Concerns about mental health have become more acute now than ever before. The COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed a silent epidemic of mental health problems across the globe. The outbreak of new-onset psychiatric symptoms due to fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and isolation has reached an all-time high, while individuals with preexisting mental illnesses have faced exacerbations and relapses. A position paper published in The Lancet Psychiatry in July 2020 stated that although the immediate psychological toll of COVID-19 was already apparent, the effects will be far-reaching, and “sooner or later, health systems will be faced with widespread demand to address these COVID-19-related mental health needs.”[19] Health experts across the globe have also sounded alarm over the rising anxiety, depression, PTSD, and suicide rates as a consequence of pandemic, hardships, and isolation.[20]

What then is our responsibility as individual mental health practitioners and as members of this august society? The foundation day observance of the IPS is a unifying call to rally our collective resources, for creating a lasting influence on the society, in all matters of mental health. Prevention of mental illness and promotion of mental health is a public health priority and therefore requires public health approaches. The involvement of society, communities, individuals, and public and private partnership of organizations all play a significant part in achieving this huge task.

Mental health problems are common, with one in four persons estimated to develop mental illness over a lifetime. Yet, “mental health issues are not fully recognized by many policy makers, health-care providers, payers, and members of the general public. Mental disorders are too often untreated, underdiagnosed, misdiagnosed, ignored, stigmatized, and dismissed.”[21] About 70%–90% of those suffering from mental illness do not access treatment, due to either unavailability of or unawareness about the treatment, or due to stigma.[22] Untreated mental illness produces a huge burden on productivity and years lost due to disability and causes serious repercussions for the individual, families, society, and the world.

There is, therefore, a need to dispel myths and ignorance surrounding mental illnesses, responsible for the stigma and reluctance to seek treatment. It is a responsibility of us, the mental health practitioners, to educate the population that, mental illness is no curse, nor any deficiency of the mind. Mental illnesses are like any other diseases of other bodily organ systems, affected by genetic, physiological, and environmental stressors. Biological mechanisms underly the final pathway to production of symptoms culminating into mental disorders.

It is also necessary to utilize “hope” to fight against the fear of incurability of mental illnesses. History shows that the stigma associated with tuberculosis and leprosy decreases significantly after the institution of effective treatment.[23] Focusing on the availability of effective therapy helps patients accept their illness and seek treatment. Indeed, many mental illnesses are currently easily treatable. In the last 70–80 years, there have been tremendous advancements in the treatment of mental illnesses with the advent of effective psychopharmacology, brain intervention-based therapies, and psychosocial and behavioral therapies. Gone are the days of forced treatments and confinement in asylums, as are depicted in popular media. Today, mental health treatment is provided in general hospital outpatient departments and private clinics, no different from those treating other medical ailments.

Apart from general approaches for fostering mental health, more specific strategies to tackle populations at higher risk may be needed. Special groups such as children and adolescents, women, old age persons, victims of war, natural calamities, man-made disasters, trauma, and abuse, require more concerted efforts for protection and relief. Effective policies on environmental protection, tobacco and alcohol control, and healthy nutrition, and investment in low-cost community-based approaches to mental health interventions form the need of the hour. The use of information and communication technology to bridge the barriers of distance and availability would be the most strategic step. Creating awareness, sensitization, dispelling stigma, and supporting efforts at advocacy around the theme “mental health matters” must be continued through the yearlong activities.

The year 2020, will be remembered, not only as a year of the COVID-19 pandemic but also as a year of exceptional human resilience. The IPS also rose to the occasion, and through extraordinary cooperation of its members provided psychological and psychiatric support to those in need. IPS embraced digital technologies and continued its commitments through online meetings, online public advisories, policy advocacy, and online CMEs. The society developed the first national telepsychiatry framework and recommendations in May 2020 in collaboration with the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences, Bengaluru, and the Tele-medicine Society of India.[24] Policy advocacy resulted in the inclusion of essential psychotropic medications in the Indian national telemedicine guidelines in June, through amendment. The last quarter of the year saw intense online professional and public educational activities under the banner of IPS, helping all keep abreast with the most recent developments in the COVID-19 management.

The year 2021, has dawned with a promise of a new beginning, with effective treatment and prevention strategies for the COVID-19 pandemic being in the final laps of testing and deployment. However, across the world, with millions of people still suffering from the loss of their loved ones, from economic and financial hardships, from isolation, from nonavailability of essential services, there is a pandemic of mental health problems in the offing, and 2021 will need the expertise of mental health professionals more than ever before. There is a sudden awakening to the reality that “Mental Health Matters” and cannot be ignored anymore. The IPS commits itself to the fulfillment of its obligations to the nation at this hour of need, raising awareness that indeed, “Mental Health Matters.”

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Correspondence Address:
Pronob Kumar Dalal
President, Indian Psychiatric Society, Department of Psychiatry, K. G. Medical University, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/psychiatry.IndianJPsychiatry_63_21

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