India is the fastest growing and fifth-largest economy in the world. In terms of purchasing power parity, India is number three, and in the 2020s, India is expected to outshine Germany to become the fourth-largest economy. India is likely to increase its population by around 273 million people between 2019 and 2050 and emerge as the world’s most populous country by 2027.

India enjoys the demographic dividend of being a young nation. It is all set to become the world’s youngest country with 65% of its population in the working-age group by 2020. The paradox is that the fastest growing economy and the youngest country is the most depressed nation in the world. According to a World Health Organization report, around 6.5% of the Indian population suffers from some forms of severe mental disorder, with no apparent rural-urban differences. Approximately 50% of employees of the Indian corporate world suffer from stress, anxiety, and depression.

The decreasing gap between the haves and the have-nots and increasing purchasing power are giving rise to unhealthy competition among the masses. India’s conservative society and culture, coupled with the constant habit of comparison, is leading to growing depression in the nation. Depression is the root cause of mental disorders, and an estimated 56 million people suffer from depression in India. The race to own the biggest house, the most expensive car, and to secure the highest marks in the class among other things are giving rise to depression in the society.

Customs and traditions further add to the problem. Indians may love anyone but ultimately have to marry as per parental specifications. So, before loving someone, one has to think about, “What is his/her religion? Which cast does he/she belong to? What is Gotra?” Indians are more concerned about “what will people think?”

In the case of a joint family, quarrels between spouse and family/in-laws are a  common phenomena. In the end, the quality of life takes a beating. Additionally, the mad rush for money is blinding the sense of happiness and living.

Why is the situation grim?

Talking about mental disorder is often considered a taboo in Indian society. This prevents people from speaking up about their psychological issues. As a result, many people in India suffer silently because of the fear of being ridiculed by others. There is a constant pressure to act normal even when they are experiencing stress and depression, thus making life more difficult.

This fear of being mocked is leading to increasing number of suicides in India. An estimated 230,314 suicide deaths occurred in India in 2016. Suicide was the main cause of death for people aged 15-39 years in 2016.  Married women are often the victims of mental pressure and suicide deaths, mostly because of domestic violence, early motherhood, arranged marriage, and economic dependence on husbands.

The callousness of the government is further aggravating the problem. Mental health in India has never gained any importance or attention at all. There is a severe scarcity of psychologists and psychiatrists in India.

Contrastingly, yoga and meditation originated in India. Practising yoga and meditation can be seen to help improve mental health, but despite this, the state of mental health in India today is awful. It is no wonder that India is the most depressed nation in the world. It is high time to ponder over the issue, or risk it turning into an epidemic in India.