After a mental health sensitisation workshop in one of the schools, an elderly educated man turned up to the counsellor and confessed that he had been ignorant of the mental troubles his child was experiencing. He made a firm commitment to the teacher that he’ll do whatever it takes to help his child. Today, the child is better in academics and sports and is full of life.

However, we don’t hear often about such happy endings. 

Often what we hear are stories of how the victims struggled with their severe mental health issues until they ended their lives or impaired themselves for life. Any parent would help his children if one knew about the troubles they are going through. 

Mental health illnesses are in fact more common than most lifestyle-related illnesses like cancer, diabetes, or heart diseases that are among the top causes of mortality in the country. 

What could be going wrong then? Should we talk of good parenting? Of divorce cases? Of alcoholism? Of domestic violence? Of substance abuse? What about our community vitality? The list could go on… 

In a few days, experts and authorities will meet with the Prime Minister to thrash out how to address mental health issues on a united footing. The task in front of those at the meeting is monumental given the worrying trends of increasing mental health issues. 

The team will have to figure out answers to these above questions which would be equally challenging if not more than dealing with mental health issues. 

The hope is that the heads of these agencies would come with an open mind and a common objective to tackle the issue. And that they will contemplate about our friends, family members and productive youth who are suffering silently and keep their interest above all other things. 

This is an opportunity to also ensure those in the rural areas are catered to as well. 

On their own, each of these agencies has tried but could not do much. We need a different approach – a collaborative one. We must make a start and begin with coordinated efforts and measures with a holistic view of the problems. 

Any delay to implement concrete measures will put in danger many more lives. With time the challenges would only multiply. A new problem today is that we have thousands who have left to work abroad leaving their children with relatives and guardians. These children have emotional and psychological needs. 

We live in a country where happiness of the people is at the front and centre of our welfare-driven development initiatives but that doesn’t mean we have with success held our people, particularly the young, from exposure to risky, often dangerous environments. 

What we need from this meeting is not just commitment to act but action. We can only hope they do their homework well.