The worldwide socio-economic impact of the covid-19 epidemic has been devastating. In India there are millions of covid-positive cases and, as of mid-May, a staggering 2.87 lakh reported deaths. In 2017, before the current pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) labelled India the world’s “most depressing country”. It was estimated that one in seven Indians suffer from some form of mental illness. This number has undoubtedly grown as the second coronavirus wave sweeps through the country and an overwhelmed health care system struggles to provide even basic care and assistance.
Stress, anxiety, and depression are endemic, as individuals and families attempt to preserve their health and safety. As one student recently confessed, “I feel like I am thrown back to April 2020 without my consent! It feels like history is repeating itself even before we could really metabolise the existing one.” Social separation and isolation can be especially problematic, evoking fear, anger, irritation, melancholy, boredom, and resentment. Moreover, there has been an upsurge in abusive behaviour due, at least in part, to the close sheltering in place that many families must maintain. Indeed, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women recently declared violence against women an ongoing shadow pandemic.
The WHO recommends at least three mental health professionals per 1,00,000 people. In India, today, the estimate for psychologists—social scientists that study human mental processes and behaviour—is approximately 0.07 per 1,00,000. This dearth of psychological professionals and mental health care is of enormous concern and will only grow as the incidence of covid-related mental distress continues to rise. As such, there is great demand for young people to study psychology in higher education, gaining the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary to understand mental wellbeing and provide aid and treatment to those suffering from mental illness in all its myriad forms.
In August 2021, the Jindal School of Psychology & Counselling (JSPC) at O.P. Jindal Global University will welcome its inaugural batch of students. The three-year B.A. (Hons.) Psychology programme is open to grade 12 students from any stream. JSPC graduates will have the opportunity to pursue a variety of career paths, including, but not limited to: Counselling and Clinical Psychology, Neuropsychology, Cognitive Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Industrial and Organisational Psychology, Forensic and Criminal Psychology, and Educational Psychology.
Despite current challenges, the unprecedented nature of the covid pandemic offers the opportunity to grow support for the discipline and break new ground. Psychology graduates will be ideally positioned to extend our understanding of the human mind and move the field forward in the development of new treatment options for mental anguish and illness. Such knowledge and assistance will benefit India in normal times and, critically, will also better prepare the country for the next mental health crisis.