There Is No Health Without Mental Health: Dr. Murli Doraiswamy
He stressed that Education is the single biggest tool we can use to remove the taboo surrounding mental health, which according to him should start early, in schools, and for sure in colleges
In a closed session on the third day of the World Economic Forum Dr. Murali
Doraiswamy, renowned Neuroscientist and Psychiatrist from Duke University spoke on unraveling the mystery of the mind.
Dr. Doraiswamy runs a lab that does clinical trials of new discoveries.
According to Dr. Doraiswamy, “Unraveling the mystery of the mind is the core of the 4th Industrial revolution, which is the Cognitive revolution, the core of which lies in brain science. The better we can know how the brain functions, the better we can translate that into all kinds of skill-sets whether it be early childhood brain development, high school educational pedagogy, corporate leadership skills or development of smarter AI systems. These all ultimately if left unchecked, translate into some of the most serious and threatening diseases, such as mental health issues like Alzeihmers/neurological and other mental health disorders which account for leading causes of disability in the world.”
Coming from a position of leaning on science, Dr. Murali is confident that we as human beings are smart enough to understand our own brain.
He spoke of the 3 revolutions happening in healthcare; Genomics and other –omics, Information technology revolution where we have vast amounts of data that need taking care of, and Neuroscience where an incredible number of discoveries are happening right now.
Dr. Doraiswamy considers the unraveling of the mysteries of the brain one of the most under-talked and understated race of our times.
Today many countries such as US, Europe, Switzerland, Japan and China have started mega projects to understand the brain.
In fact Baidu the Chinese company has heavily invested in the field of neuroscience because they believe in the potential of neuroscience in the field of AI and robotics.
India has lagged behind a little bit but there are longitudinal studies, which are underway now.
Entrepreneurs are taking note, Elon mask has started a company called Neuro Link where he directly wants the brain to link to the internet with a mesh.
He shared that; there are technologies today where just by thinking you can control your genes.
Dr. Doraiswamy also spoke about consciousness, sleep and memory; alluding to a study by Penfield, he mentioned that maybe memories are never lost, but are not on the surface because of retrieval problems, which is very promising for mental health diseases like Alzheimers.
“The fourth industrial revolutions developments in Neuroscience and Neuro-technology are going to be crucial. The more we learn about AI, it seems it is going to be very important and will spill over into every field. Neuro-war is going to be the next big thing, we are not going to be killing each other with physical drones, we are going to be killing each other with brain altering substances or through Neuro-weapons, which will be the down side.”
On the subject of mental health Dr. Doraiswamy said, “Mental health is going to become a huge issue in India, the latest statistics show that approximately 150 million Indians suffer from mental illness. At least 2/3rd have a serious mental condition. It is going to be particularly grave in the younger adults.”
Roughly half of India’s pop is under the age of 25. Around half of those may have anxiety depression, addictions and other kinds of psychiatric problems; suicide rates are particularly high in this age group.
“We don’t know the causes, whether they are educational, financial, romantic pressures or parental divorce, excess exposure to social media or cyber bullying. There may be a variety of causes that may trigger anxiety and depression. There is a huge need to focus on that population. Combined with that there is a shortage of trained psychiatric professionals. Some people estimate the shortage to be somewhere between 10-50 fold for counsellors and psychiatrists. The real solution will come from creating a breed of counsellors and community activists. We can’t just rely on the medical system to produce enough psychiatrists or psychologists. Peer to peer counselling as well the work of foundations and NGOs like Deepika Padukones foundation Live Laugh Love, which is doing a stellar job in creating awareness, in trying to reduce the stigma and training counsellors and setting up hotlines for people.”
He stressed that Education is the single biggest tool we can use to remove the taboo surrounding mental health, which according to him should start early, in schools, and for sure in colleges.
Employing ancient Indian mindful practices of yoga and meditation to deal with a variety of psychiatric illnesses was one of the recommendations he also made, depending on the severity of the problem.
Dr. Doraiswamy signed of by saying, “There is no health without mental health and if India wants to emerge as a world leader on the economic front, it has to keep in mind."