In 2017 alone, 197.3 million people had mental health disorders in India (Lancet Psychiatry 2020) implying that while, at least 14% of Indians are living with such issues an alarming 86% is behind a veil of ignorance. India’s mental health landscape presents a grim reality of poor implementation of mental health policies, age old discriminatory attitude towards those suffering from mental health illnesses compounded with shortage of mental health personnel and low perceived need for care. With the COVID-19 outbreak triggering implications that reach far beyond the direct impact on people’s physical health, there has been an exacerbated spiralling of tension and anxiety, further increasing the load on India’s overtaxed mental health machinery.
Addressing the rampant stigma and discrimination which has considerably compounded the problem during these challenging times, Times Network, India’s premium broadcast network, launched #ActNow an initiative to spread awareness, normalise conversations around the issue and sensitise people to be responsive to the mental health needs of others.
Dismantling the taboo around mental health ailments by providing a purposeful framework to drive conversations on the issue, Times Network launched a special campaign film #ActNow that takes an outside-in view of the problem and targets the ‘people around’ to act, rather than the one living with mental health issues. Mirroring how societal structures treats a person living with a mental ailment with ignorance, pity, annoyance and utter disbelief, the film unravels the state of mind of someone who is besieged by misinterpreted advice of his near and dear ones as he fights a lone battle. A clarion call to realign our minds to escape from the entrapment of the prevalent social stigma and recognize mental health as an existential crisis for humanity, the impactful film urges public at large to remain receptive to the deteriorating mental health of people around and take appropriate course of action to offer support without prejudice and fear. The initiative launched on a special edition of Mirror NOW’s Urban Debate, hosted an expert panel that analysed and discussed the deteriorating condition of mental illness in India.
The initiative which encourages the essential steps of acknowledging the signs, choosing the right words and urging people to talk to an expert, draws relevance from Times Network’s nationwide research study commissioned to Nielsen India titled, ‘How Urban India Perceives Mental Health’. The study indicates that while awareness levels related to mental health ailments have gone up recently, there is a pressing need to disseminate the factual information to tackle the strong undercurrents of stigma and lack access to quality mental healthcare. Mental health conversations remain the single most important detriment and solution for this issue. The quantitative study that examines the dynamics, culture, mindset and perceptions of the people towards mental health was conducted through three prolonged evaluation based on secondary research, in depth interactions with mental health experts and a survey with India’s cross-section of urban population.
Key findings of the study:
- 70% of Urban India claim to suffer/know of someone who has suffered from a mental health ailment
- Among people who are suffering/know someone suffering from mental health ailment, depressions come out as the most prominent at 58%
- 76% perceive that “People are not open to talk about Mental Health to everyone” and there is still shame and stigma associated around Mental Health
- 52% of the people face problems in accessing a Mental Health Professional and 63% perceive that there is difficulty in procuring Medication
- 54% people are not completely aware about the diseases covered in a Health insurance policy and 47% of the people are unaware of the government mandate for health insurance policies to cover treatment of mental health ailments
- 57% of Urban India considers Financial Pressures to be the leading cause of negative impact on Mental Health
*Sample size – 2440, Cities - Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Jaipur, Patna, Ahmedabad, Mangalore, Vishakapatnam, Bareilly, Guwahati, Raipur, Mangalore
Vivek Srivastava, President - Strategy and Business Head - News and English Entertainment Cluster, Times Network, said, “With the unprecedented disruption caused by the COVID-19, we can see its enormous impact on our lives. The pandemic induced quarantine and social distancing has forced us to isolation and lack of physical contact, reshaping our relationships with our family, friends and colleagues while working from home. The new normal has triggered anxiety and deepened emotional turmoil, consequently leading to a quieter but concerning rise in the number of people grappling with mental health issues. ActNow is our endeavour to spread awareness and drive dialogues to break barriers around the mental health issue. Through our multi-faceted campaign, we urge the society at large to look beyond the happy faces that conceal the sufferings and encourage healthy and judgement-free conversations on mental health.”
Refining and bringing a comprehensive view on mental health with the expert voices, the Network has onboarded Jaslok Hospital as the Knowledge Partner. Psychologists and mental experts from the hospital will provide critical inputs and steer the campaign with relevant information and decode the complex challenges associated with mental health crisis. Fostering positive mental health and evoking a sense of response amongst the millennials, Times Network has partnered with youth marketing firm, Viral Fission to drive community engagement through student advocates of mental health. Promoting awareness on this age agnostic ailment to the young people, the Network In association with Jaslok Hospital, will conduct insightful webinars and sensitivity training for the students, where expert psychologists will focus on educating the students on the importance of normalising conversations around mental health and the right ways to help someone living with the illness.
Times Network has also partnered with The Souled Store (TSS) as the Cause Partner for the initiative to produce a set of 3 Limited T shirts as part which will carry the #ActNow branded tags. The T-shirts will be listed under a special ActNow section on their website and available for commercial sale. TSS will donate 20% of the profit proceeds to an NGO (Aasra Foundation) involved in mental healthcare work.
Mobilizing and integrating a multi-channel communication to maximise the campaign reach across a wide spectrum of the society, #ActNow will be driven across Times Network channels and digital assets, Print Ads across The Times of India daily and a dedicated page on network’s digital news destination, Timesnownew.com, which will host a curated series of articles on mental well-being.