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India didn’t prioritize mental health before Covid-19. Now it’s paying the price


“The worst are the headaches and the pain in my eyes,” said Paul, who lives in Kolkata, West Bengal. “I have had more panic attacks this year than in my entire life combined.”

Research conducted by the Suicide Prevention in India Foundation (SPIF) in May found that nearly 65% of 159 mental health professionals surveyed reported an increase in self-harm among their patients. More than 85% of therapists surveyed said they were experiencing caregiver fatigue, and over 75% said fatigue had impacted their work.

Another survey in April, by the Indian Psychiatric Society, showed that, of 1,685 participants, 40% were suffering from common mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, due to the pandemic.

The lockdown may have eased, but the situation isn’t improving. The report’s authors told CNN in August that there’s growing anxiety and uncertainty about when the pandemic will end.

Before Covid-19, India had the highest suicide rate in south-east Asia — now medical experts say the country’s mental health system is being pushed to the limit.

“The system was already creaking and overburdened, now with Covid, we are experiencing the catastrophe of increased demand, woeful supply, and fatigued frontline workers,” said Nelson Moses, founder of SPIF.

No words for mental health

India doesn’t have a long history of discussing mental health.

In 2016, a National Mental Health Survey conducted across 12 states documented a list of over 50 derogatory terms used for people suffering mental illness. “Usually, the public believes that individuals with psychiatric illnesses are incompetent, irrational and untrustworthy consequently, they have low marriage opportunities,” said one of the participants.

“People think that talking about your feelings makes you weak — there are a lot of misconceptions,” said 23-year-old Baldev Singh, a volunteer counselor with the MINDS Foundation, an Indian nonprofit that aims to reduce the stigma around mental health.

Experts say the historical reluctance to address mental health in India could be partly due to a lack of terminology. None of India’s 22 languages have words that mean “mental health” or “depression.”

“People think that talking about your feelings makes you weak — there are a lot of misconceptions.”Baldev Singh, volunteer counselor

While there are terms for sadness (udaasi), grief (shok) or devastation (bejasi) in Urdu and other Indian languages, the specific terminology to address different mental illnesses is lacking. That’s because the practice of psychiatry is largely Western, said Dr S.K. Chaturvedi, Head of department at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) in Bangalore.  “It is easier for people to talk about physical symptoms and illnesses than to express to their families that they are feeling low or depressed,” he said.

Growing up, Paul says her middle-class Indian family didn’t talk about negative feelings.

“Ever since I was a kid it was ingrained that we don’t talk about things that bother us.”

Problems were pushed aside and minimized, she said. “They might just compare it with someone else’s problem and make you feel guilty about it.”

Aritri Paul has spoken about her issues with mental health to encourage others to seek help.

Straining mental health system

The stigma around mental health may prevent some people from recognizing that they need help. For those who do want treatment, facilities are limited.

According to the 2016 National Mental Health Survey, 83% of people suffering mental health problems in India did not have access to adequate mental health treatment.

The same year, India had three psychiatrists for every million people and even fewer psychologists, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). For comparison, the US had 100 psychiatrists and almost 300 psychologists for every million people.

In many cases, access to mental health treatment in India depends on where you live.

“The divide basically comes in the urban versus rural, so if I look at Mumbai, I know that today I can just get up and go to a hospital in my own area,” said Pragya Lodha, the Mumbai Program Director for the MINDS Foundation.

For people in rural India, it’s much harder.

Sub-district hospitals cater to roughly 30,000 people or 15 to 20 villages. However, these hospitals typically don’t have mental health services, according to Amul Joshi, MINDS Foundation’s program director in Gujarat.

Some villagers may have to travel up to 60 kilometers (37 miles) to get treatment, said Joshi. That takes time — and money. “We sometimes pay for their travel to the hospital as an incentive. However, this means that treatment is usually limited to medication as people cannot keep going to the district hospital for therapy,” he said.

People in rural India tend to have other priorities.

“The struggle in rural communities is often about basics so mental health tends to take a backseat,” said Lodha.

The urban-rural divide

India was heading into harvest season when the government announced its nationwide lockdown in March. Farmers were confused about whether they could hire migrant workers amid the ban on cross-border movement, and whether crops could be transported to market, said Singh, the volunteer counselor.

“People have to deal with a lot of stress in villages — farmers have to deal with their produce going bad when they can’t take it to the market or distribute it in time,” said Singh, who lives in Nara Village, a rural farming community of around 2,000 people in Gujarat.

Singh said people in rural India are feeling more isolated than ever.

“In rural India, where people aren’t aware of mental health issues and can’t talk to their friends about their stresses, the situation is only getting worse.”Baldev Singh, volunteer counselor

“In urban India, this may have led to more dialogue among family members. In rural India, where people aren’t aware of mental health issues and can’t talk to their friends about their stresses, the situation is only getting worse,” he said.

Technology has become crucial to mental health intervention in many communities during the pandemic. However, online therapy is not often available to people in villages who don’t have access to smartphones or the internet.

The MIND Foundation trains volunteers — like Singh — to become “community leaders” to raise awareness of mental health and encourage people to seek help when they need it.

Government programs

Changing attitudes in a country of 1.3 billion people is an immense challenge. But in recent months, there have been signs of change.

Chaturvedi, from NIMHANS, is part of a central government initiative to address the mental health of migrants who were disproportionately affected by the lockdown that stretched for 68 days.

“(It’s) definitely proof of the fact that there is a shift in attitudes, and that people understand the importance of mental health,” Chaturvedi said.

Millions of migrant workers lost their jobs and became stranded in cities when lockdown rules closed workplaces and froze public transport. Some were forced to take shelter under bridges or other public spaces or walk hundreds of miles to get home.

Migrant laborers (were) displaced, forced to go back to their villages, ignored by the state machinery, treated as collateral damage,” Moses said. Sometimes they were unwelcome in their own villages, he added, due to fears they were carrying the virus.

“Thanks to Covid, everyone is in the same boat of despair and despondency.”Nelson Moses, founder of the Suicide Prevention in India Foundation

Under the direction of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, NIMHANS set up a helpline that refers prospective patients to mental health professionals. Separately, the government released guidelines on addressing the mental health issues of migrants and health care workers, and advice on identifying patients whose mental health had suffered during the pandemic. And the Health Ministry shared posters stressing the importance of wellness practices, such as yoga to improve mental health.

However, some mental health practitioners say these initiatives are insufficient. “These are helpful but seem to be reductive and appear to pay mere lip service,” said Moses.

Mental health experts say what’s needed is more funding. Of India’s total 2020-2021 budget, just 2% has been set aside for healthcare. And of that figure, less than 1% has been allocated to mental health.

Moses believes now is the time for the Indian government to start prioritizing mental health services.

“Never before have we witnessed more engagement surrounding mental health. Thanks to Covid, everyone is in the same boat of despair and despondency,” said Moses. “It has gone from (being) swept under the carpet to hitting the ceiling.”

Paul chose to speak about her panic attacks to raise awareness of a problem that often is ignored in India. “It is no longer acceptable to label mental health as “taboo,” and move on without addressing the issue,” she said.

“There needs to be a lot more communication … we need to start from ground zero in schools and colleges and rope in parents and make them comfortable with it, so that their children can be comfortable talking to them about their issues.”



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Brexit news: Labour Leavers pay biggest price of Corbyn’s failure on Brexit day | UK | News


With or without a bong, Britain finally leaves the Brussels bloc today and sails the seas of a new adventure outside the European Union as a truly free and independent nation. The Brexit battle fought by the Tories in the last four years against the ever-demanding team in Brussels and Remainer MPs unwilling to accept their defeat in the UK Parliament, has finally paid off for the nation. The biggest price of Britons’ decision to leave the EU will be paid by those who voted for their own fate in the 2016 referendum, a bitter Remainer would say. And Brexiteers will endlessly work to debunk the argument going forward, proving Brexit Britain has been well worth the struggling fight. One thing is already certain, though. The Labour Party’s inability to engage with its own voters and the rest of the country on the most important issue in a generation has cost them the biggest electoral defeat of a lifetime.

Labour was catastrophically defeated in the December 2019 election against Boris Johnson.

Yet, the outgoing leadership is still failing to admit it was its Brexit policy to campaign for a second referendum that cost them the result.

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, now in the race to replace Jeremy Corbyn in April, is adamant the reason Labour lost the December election is in the delivery of all the “radical” policies the party had drafted for the country.

But pro-Brexit Labour MPs who lost their seats in December pinpoint the devastating loss on Sir Keir Starmer’s masterminded proposal of a second EU vote.

And even the most prominent figures of the Labour Party who have been battling to take the UK out of the EU since 1975 now admit Labour has put himself on the wrong side of the Brexit argument for decades.

Former Chair of Labour Leave John Mills admitted the Labour Party has never been “in the best position in either camp” when both fighting for Britain to leave the EU in 1975 and siding with its Remain supporters in 2019.

READ MORE: Brexit shock: Keir Starmer vows to bring back freedom of movement

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Brexit news: Jeremy Corbyn failed to stand his ground on Brexit and lost (Image: GETTY)

Both times, Labour lost and the Tories won.

During the 2016 referendum campaign, Labour Leavers would promptly bring former Labour Chairman Tony Benn’s anti-EU speeches to light to prove their true, core belief lied in a Britain freed by Brussels shackles.

And standing side-by-side the same “father of Brexit”, as some of them branded Mr Benn, was no one else but Jeremy Corbyn himself.

The Islington MP, who ran as a candidate for deputy leader to Tony Benn in 1981 before even becoming a Member of Parliament, stood on platforms across the country to fight the Brexit battle before any eurosceptics in the Conservative Party even had a say in the matter.

But given the opportunity to become Labour leader in 2015, the same man failed to stand his own ground and pretended to support the complete opposite of what he had preached for decades just to please an ever-excited new band of members who so badly wanted to remain EU citizens.

“One of the things about 1975 was that about 80 percent of the Tory Party voters voted to Remain, whereas most of the Leave support camp came from the left,” John Mills told Express.co.uk.

“Now that’s the other way around. Certainly, in Parliament and among the Labour Party membership, there’s much more of a Remain campaign now than there is a Leave campaign.

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Labour Party politician and Chairman of the Labour Party, Tony Benn (1925-2014) (Image: GETTY)

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Anthony Wedgwood Benn (1925 – 2014, right) and Jeremy Corbyn (centre) at the Labour Party Conference in Blackpool, UK, 1992 (Image: GETTY)

“It’s the other way for the Conservatives, so there has been a big swing around.”

He added: “I don’t think that the issue of the EU was the only reason behind the election result in 2019.

“But I think it was a very important factor and I do think that so many people voted Conservatives did so because they disagreed with Labour’s stance on the EU and for the fact that the party was becoming too much metropolitan, too London-orientated, too Remain, too much the party of the middle class and the public sector and so on.

“When you run an election on that basis you need to have your large number of industrial and traditional Labour voters campaign behind you as well.

“And that’s what didn’t happen.”

The businessman and economist admitted his own core group of Labour Leavers could not win against the Conservatives’ clear message of “taking back control” and “get Brexit done” with their ideological fight against capitalism and ever-growing support for Remain in their core metropolitan elites.

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He said: “People always had different reasons for wanting to leave the European Union.

“Why did people vote to leave the EU and particularly working-class people, I don’t think it’s entirely because of problems of capitalism.

“I think it was much more because they wanted to have control of their own lives, they thought the EU was too much of an elitist organisation.”

He added: “We’ve had a situation where MPs have very strongly been Remain, most Labour MPs and most Labour Party members have been really strongly Remain as well – probably 80 percent of the members.

“But when it came to Labour voters the situation was very, very different.

“Of all the people that voted Labour for the last few decades, about half of them probably were on the Leave camp.

“I think what we’ve done is to keep alive a handful of Labour Leave people which was quite important for the referendum result.”

brexit news labour party lord glasman labour leave

Brexit news: Labour Leave member Lord Glasman (Image: EXPRESS)

One of those Labour Leave people is Labour peer Lord Glasman. A staunch supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, the Labour eurosceptic told Express.co.uk in April 2019 that his party needed to present Britons with the “socialist opportunities of Brexit” to contrast the Conservatives’ “globalised capitalism” possibilities of trading with other nations outside of the EU.

He said: “A third or maybe half of the Labour manifesto could not be implemented if we stay in the EU.

“Workers could not be given first choice about buying a company because they would violate EU competition laws.

“We couldn’t have nationalisation, we couldn’t have an industrial strategy, we couldn’t have a pro-worker movement.

“And it’s also the case that every country where the socialist Labour parties have supported the EU, their support died and they no longer exist.

“So Labour has to work this out. What I’m saying is that Corbyn represents, and many of us in Labour represent, the democratic and socialist possibilities of Brexit.

“And you can’t have that without democratic sovereignty.”

brexit news labour party jeremy corbyn general election 2019

Brexit news: Jeremy Corbyn lost 60 seats for the Labour Party at the December 2019 election (Image: GETTY)

Adding: “The politics that is to come will be a Conservative vision of globalised capitalism, and a Labour vision of a democratic nation that could make its own decisions.

“And that should be a split between Labour and Conservative, but as it stands, this whole debate about the EU is getting in the way of what has to come.”

And what did come only a few months later was exactly that. A Labour manifesto full of “radical” socialist proposals that just did not convince the nation.

The Labour Party manifesto included plans for the re-nationalisation of rail, water and energy as well as a tax increase for the highest earners in the country.

Ahead of the election, Jeremy Corbyn also pledged to compensate WASPI women who lost money due to delayed retirement with a £58bn war chest.

The policies Mr Corbyn put forward however failed to convince voters and caused the party to lose 60 seats, including in northern heartlands where Brexit dissatisfaction pushed some Britons to back pro-Leave Tories.

Now all the Leavers in the red party are left with, is the bitter victory of leaving the dreadful EU bloc at the expensive cost of the possible final days of their own party.



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Canadiens’ Carey Price becoming like a big brother to Cayden Primeau


Canadiens rookie goalie Cayden Primeau was asked after practice Friday in Brossard to describe his relationship with Carey Price.

“I’m not sure … probably big brother, little brother,” Primeau said. “But he’s been nothing but great and super supportive. I try to stay out of his way, but like I said he’s been super supportive. So I can’t say any more nice things about him.”

The big brother had the little brother’s back after Primeau recorded his first NHL victory Wednesday night, making 35 saves in a 3-2 overtime win over the Ottawa Senators at the Bell Centre. The Senators’ Brady Tkachuk picked up the puck after Ben Chiarot scored the winning goal in OT and was leaving the ice with it when he was stopped by Price.

Tkachuk handed the puck over and Price presented it to Primeau after the rookie was named the first star in only his second NHL start since getting called up from the AHL’s Laval Rocket.


Carey Price congratulates rookie goalie Cayden Primeau after his first NHL victory, a 3-2 overtime win over the Ottawa Senators at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Dec. 11, 2019.

Minas Panagiotakis /

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“That means so much,” Primeau said. “(Price) probably doesn’t even realize how much it means to me that he got a piece of that night there I’ll be able to have for the rest of my life.”

Tkachuk, who is known as a pest and tangled with Shea Weber during Wednesday’s game, claimed he was going to give the puck to a fan as a souvenir, but most likely knew exactly what he was doing when he tried to take away the special souvenir. Primeau and Tkachuk were teammates for international play at the U-18 level with Team USA.

“He messaged me and he told me that he was doing that (giving the puck to a fan),” Primeau said. “But it’s all part of the way he plays and I respect that. When people don’t like him, that’s what he’s supposed to do. I’m going to take his word for it, but definitely part of his game.”

“Nothing can surprise me with Brady,” the goalie said with a big smile.



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Death threats to meat company managers complicated efforts to fix the beef price dispute – Dáil told



Michael Creed
Michael Creed

John Downing

Meat company managers received death threats at a firm which got an injunction against blockading beef farmers, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed has told the Dáil.

Mr Creed was speaking as hundreds of independent farmers, many driving tractors, protested in Dublin city centre over low cattle prices. The Minister said these death threats added to difficulties in establishing a taskforce to deal with the beef crisis which dominated this summer and autumn.

The Leinster House protests follow blockades at beef processing factories over several months. TDs who spoke supporting the demonstrators, called for independent and non-aligned farmers to be recognised and represented at the taskforce.

The taskforce was promised as part of an agreement to end the protests. But the Mr Creed said all TDs were well aware of the specific issues involved in convening of the group, as farmers called for remaining injunctions to be lifted against farmers who picketed outside processing plants.

The Agriculture Minister said the injunctions that remained were granted to a company that is not part of the taskforce.

“What has compounded the difficulty is that senior management in that company have had death threats issued to them. And their partners and families have been intimidated in that local community,” Mr Creed told the Dáil.

While several TDs expressed support for the protesting farmers, Mr Creed said “we are grappling with very difficult issues”.

A Dáil row also erupted when the Minister said that Independent TD Mattie McGrath was “shrugging his shoulders” and might “dismiss the difficulty of death threats – but the Government doesn’t and the gardai don’t”.

Mr McGrath countered that he accepted that threats had been made and that the Government was taking them seriously and called on the Minister to withdraw his remarks. The Minister said previous experience had shown what followed from death threats and they were taking them very seriously.

Mr McGrath said the demonstrating farmers outside the Leinster House gates were non-political and they were worried about the perilous situation they faced. He had called on the Minister to meet them and to accept a letter from them. “ The taskforce isn’t doing the job, won’t do the job and it’s not business as usual,” Mr McGrath said.

The Tipperary TD also said he appreciated the support from Dublin-based People Before Profit, Brid Smith, who raised the issue. Ms Smith said there had been eight weeks of blockading of meat production plants and farmers were back to ask for the issues to be dealt with urgently.

She called on the Government to be inclusive of all farmer representative groups, and the Independent Farmers of Ireland who have re-grouped and have demanded the lifting of all injunctions so that meaningful talks can take place.

Fianna Fáil Cavan-Monaghan TD, Niamh Smyth, argued the Minister had not delivered on his commitment two months ago when farmers ended their protests to deliver on a taskforce.

Online Editors





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