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Youth, Technology and Mental Health in South Asia

Over a few days in September, the culmination of years of deliberation came into existence during the U.N. Sustainable Development Summit. A byproduct of this conference was the Sustainable Development Goals, which layout a strategy to create a better world. Sustainable Development Goal number three focuses on one of many important concerns: health.

In many cultures, especially South Asian cultures, asking for help or showing weakness is discouraged. As a result, statistics on mental health in South Asia show a 12.9 percent suicide rate. Even more frightening, Sri Lanka has the highest suicide rate in the world at 35.3 percent. Women and young people are especially susceptible to depression, anxiety, manic-depressive disorder and other mental illnesses.

As bleak as the statistics may seem, efforts have been made to curb this issue. One especially important resource to reduce mental illness is technology. Technology often bridges the gap between those who cannot access traditional medication or fear social repercussions. Although mental health in South Asia is still a taboo topic, many have found ways to get the help they need with technology. Youth in South Asia benefit from programs to help them talk about their struggles without stigmatization.

Various nonprofit organizations have websites that operate in different countries in South Asia. In India, one of the world’s most depressed countries, ePsyclinic provides a listening ear as a form of therapy. Sumithrayo, a website in Sri Lanka, helps reach out to people considering suicide. A similar program in Pakistan, Taskeen.org, helps serve people alongside Pakistan’s 400 mental health professionals.

The Tamil Nadu government in India specifically targets the country’s young people. The Mental Health Program in Tamil Nadu has encouraged Tamil youth to use technology to address mental health issues. The community development program tackles training, economic growth and livelihood development. Additionally, through the program, an estimated 80-100 percent of young people have begun using tools like Skype to address their mental health.

The statistics about mental health in South Asia stress the necessity of Sustainable Development Goal number three. Goal three, good health and well-being, illustrates the need for a greater global focus on mental wellness. The purpose of the increased concern is apparent in every startling mental health statistic. Understanding how suicide came to be the second-highest cause of death for people aged 15-34 (U.S. estimate) requires attention to the mental issues that it results from.

As interconnected as the world is, the goal of fighting poverty reminds everyone that the distress of one affects the health of all.

Selasi Amoani

Photo: Flickr