In the past few years, there has been a shift in the tide when it comes to mental health issues. Though once considered a taboo topic engulfed in shameful stigma, it is nonetheless a vital conversation to be had, especially when so many lives are affected by it. Due to greater awareness efforts, the mindsets of Maldivians are slowly, but surely, changing for the better.
The conversation about mental health is especially loud this year. The COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed a catastrophe of epic proportions, rocking the global economy to its core. Over the course of the year, people have lost loved ones, jobs, security, and for many, even hope. Indeed, in times like these, it’s no wonder that demand for mental healthcare has skyrocketed.
And yet, when you actually try to seek help for your afflictions by going to visit a psychiatrist or a therapist, you’re denied access any time soon. Instead, you’re slammed onto a long queue list of over a thousand patients, and there is nothing to do but wait, wait, and wait…
But what if you can’t wait?
Certain mental health issues require immediate attention and care. By the time one receives news of the confirmed appointment, a lot of room is left for potential further deterioration. When people are left at their most vulnerable without a glimmer of reprieve, where are they expected to turn?
It is imperative that we let go of the idea that mental health is somehow inferior to physical health. That it is secondary, not as important, or something that can be put off. While a broken foot, for instance, requires care without delay, why are we unable to extend the same urgency to issues of the mind? Simply because it is intangible does not mean it is any less serious.
In 2018, we cast our votes and elected the current administration on the promise of easier access to mental healthcare. While we have taken many a stride forward since then, if the current mental healthcare system is insufficient in meeting the needs of our local populace, as it so clearly is, this gap needs to be critically addressed by our authorities.