Saturday, July 1, 2017

Drumroll, followed by depression?

Depression is becoming an increasingly prevalent condition, given the race for jobs, breaking relationships and rocketing levels of stress. In most cases, depression goes undiagnosed, and in some, there is not enough money for treating it clinically. According to the National Mental Health Survey 2015-16, this condition is most prevalent in urban metro areas and amongst widowed/separated women.

The most glaring numbers constitute the percentage of widowed/separated women who are under depression. 1 out of 20 of these women are victims, which obviously results from sudden death of spouse or abandonment, since an expected death or divorce has very less chances of leading to a depression. According to Census 2011, the number of divorced women in India is around 9,10,000. Of this, 5.2% or at least 47,202 women are under depression. The NMHS also states that 1% of the women are under the risk of suicide, which means that at least 9,100 women face this trauma at some point in their lives.

Considering the above numbers, at least around 56,000 women in India require treatment for depression resulting from divorce. The NMHS reveals that the cost of treatment for depression per individual is at least Rs. 1250 for one month, and it needs to be treated over a minimum period of 6 months. Therefore, the cost of treating depression per woman is around Rs. 7,500. The average annual Indian per capita income is Rs. 74,290; in which case, 10% of the annual income would go towards treatment. In several cases, such women might not be earning members and there might be only one breadwinner in a family of at least three members. How affordable is treatment in this case?
The government provides for abandoned women through a fund under the National Social Assistance Scheme. However, the accessibility of these funds is a million dollar question, since most women don’t have the resources or energy to prove the abandonment in courts. This raises a significant doubt – on whether courts are the supreme judges when it comes to a problem between a husband and a wife. How can an institution determine the truth of what has transpired between a couple inside a house? Or inside a bedroom? Circumstantial evidence might as well be reactive evidence, and there is no way to prove any provocation or action behind such a reaction. What, then, is the point of putting both parties through the trauma of contesting a case, the process of which itself is stress-inducing? None whatsoever.

Probably the best way to deal with such cases of abandonment and divorce is mediation outside the court atmosphere with the presence of both parties and an unbiased counsellor, with family members if required. There is a fair distribution of institutions which offer social work as a course for students, and the cream among these students could be well-employed through providing such services. Until reconciliation or amicable parting of ways, such repeated counselling sessions could save thousands of women from depression, and could also divert them into more lucrative areas such as taking up a job or setting up a business. Cost of treatment is one of the major reasons for not taking it up, and such counselling could well be the path towards preventing or at least mitigating long term effects of depression on women, and even suicides.

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