How aware are we About Mental Health?

Aman Iqbal, Founder, Vantage EnterpriseMental Health is as critical as physical well being. When we say that body is where we live, then mental wellness forms a substantial part of the human body. Self-awareness is the need of the hour that is enabling acceptance to a larger extent. Awareness is growing globally in the light of many individuals opening up about their struggles. This trend has been proving to become a catalyst in addressing and solving the issues around mental health in a country like ours. Advocacy is at its peak currently with many Governments, NGOs, corporates and influential people starting to discuss the issue of mental health in public domain. This has stirred a conversation and a need to sustain it among the people who are either vulnerable to or victims of poor mental health.

The most common diseases that arise due to poor mental health are clinicaldepression, schizophrenia, personality disorder, bipolar disorder, autism, and ADHD to name a few. According to the statistics by WHO, there are more than 300 million people of all ages around the globe that suffer from depression and although there are known effective treatments for depression, less than 10 percent of the affected population receive such treatments. One of the major problems lies in our understanding of the disease at the biological level. Unlike diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and many other lifestyle disorders for which there are many biomarkers available for early detection and disease tracking for better interventional led treatment, there are no clear biomarkers for diseases of mental health. It is a subject that patients and people exposed to it are unaware about. There is a high level of resistance to initiate a dialogue around it because people are scared of acceptance.

Apart from these societal challenges there are biological challenges that arise with the lack of biochemical diagnosis of all diseases that come
under the mental health umbrella. The lack of clear biomarkersmakes it very difficult for psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and therapists to truly diagnose one from the other. Most of the current diagnosis is in the form of identifying human behavior patterns, intensity of episodes etc. to be certain about the illness a human is suffering from. This form of qualitative analysis and disease identification is not only misleading but also puts patients at risk for taking medications that are not personalized. This lack of understanding of the patient's psychology during the illness, often results in lapses and unavoidable circumstances like suicide.

Diagnostic solutions for tracking mental health is the need of the hour and the industry is working on bringing solutions to millions of patients suffering with this debilitating illness

Epigenetics, a new area of science that studies the effect of real time changes to our DNA resulting in the development of a disease is an avenue with a lot of promise. There is now enormous literature data correlating DNA modifications to the onset of depression and ADHD due to environmental factors such as stress diet, personal issues etc. So, Epigenetics offers an academic solution at least for tracking mental health and wellness.

Diagnostic solutions for tracking mental health is the need of the hour and the industry is working on bringing solutions to millions of patients suffering with this debilitating illness. This is an appropriate example of technology in healthcare since this field is unexplored and needs disruption. It is evident that the first phase of disruption has happened and is evolving the ways healthcare is driven.

Pathology associated with diseases like diabetes and cancer is highly supportive since physical marks such as clots, lumps, vision and rashes help identify and classify the disease. For mental health it's called an invisible disease, undetectable pathologically however with the advancements in the technology, an early detection of the disease is now possible. Genetic research has also identified mutations and translocations that correlate to depression, autism and ADHD offer a solution for diagnosis through identification of genetic predisposition of these disorders. However, real time tracking like blood biomarkers presents a challenge in tracking how an individual is recovering under prescribed intervention.

The idea is to spread awareness around the fact that epigenetics sits above all other forms of diagnosis and in near future this trend would result in immense disruption in the healthcare space. The methodology will not only become simplified but will also be accurate and timely. This is the vision of the industry that would aim to make healthcare more accessible and affordable.

This is important because mental health is crucial to the overall well being, functioning, and resilience of individuals, societies, and countries recovering from emergencies and if this subset of the healthcare industry Is improved, there would be an incremental impact on the overall industry.