Why is there a mental health crisis in India?

I have my own theory regarding why there is a problem of mental health in India. I suffer from a mental ailment myself and it is not surprising that I should find this subject interesting.

From a Google search:

WHO also estimates that about 7.5 per cent Indians suffer from some mental disorder and predicts that by end of this year roughly 20 per cent of India will suffer from mental illnesses. According to the numbers, 56 million Indians suffer from depression and another 38 million Indians suffer from anxiety disorders.

Compare that with China. Alan Watts wrote in one of his books that mentally ill people in China were so rare that they were actually regarded a messengers from the Divine. Of course he was talking about the ancient Chinese civilization as existed before the Communists (under Mao) came to power. I am no supporter of the Chinese Communist Party.

Bertrand Russell, in his excellent book Sceptical Essays, has a whole chapter on China. The concept I want to explain can be summarised by just three or four sentences of Russell’s elegant prose:

… Chinese governors naturally preferred the Confucian maxims of self control, benevolence and courtesy, combined as they were with a great emphasis on the good that can be done by wise government. It never occurred to the Chinese, as it has to all white nations, to have one system of ethics in theory and another in practice. I do not mean that they always live up to their own theories, but that they attempt to do so and are expected to do so, whereas there are large parts of the Christian ethic which are universally admitted to be too good for this wicked world.

Compare that with the situation in India which prides itself on its spirituality. Due to a misinterpretation of Mahatma Gandhi’s teaching we have tried to force the highest ethics (which are related to seeking the Divine) on people who were in abject poverty and finding it difficult to make ends meet.

I have given my views on one of Mahatma Gandhi’s tenets in an earlier article in this blog. Link is below:

My grandparents were particularly attached to Mahatma Gandhi and his philosophy. It is not surprising as they lived through the freedom struggle in India and saw what was happening. There is no doubt that the gigantic Mahatma of history was a charismatic figure.

And I am not blaming my grandparents for my ailment. I owe them a debt I can never repay for their having supported and raised me. And they were also misguided by the ethos of the day.

I think it was mostly Prime Minister Nehru’s mistakes that we are suffering from now. He tried to impose spirituality in India (mainly the Mahatma’s teachings). Those teachings were used as a club to beat people with.

You cannot force people to make a quest for enlightenment. You do not force somebody to climb Mount Everest at gunpoint. He will only fall and break his neck.

I think we have much to learn from China and I would (if I was in the government) try to learn from Chinese culture, if necessary, taking the help of the Chinese government and academics.

I’ll end here. Please explore this site for more articles on Politics, Spirituality and Self Help. Please comment on the articles if you liked them or even if you didn’t. Feedback from my readers keeps me going.

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