Mental Health for the whole world

I appreciate the discussion about mental health. In my next avatar or phase of life, I want to become some kind of a mental health practitioner.  A big cause of mental health may be financial insecurity in a capitalist world. …And the social inequalities and pressures and heartburn that causes. The pharma lobby and DSM lobby and many other money-making machines in the West are hard at work to not fully cure but mostly contain the problems. The Federal government has created a strategy to combat mental health issues, however it remains to be seen how effective it will be.

The human body and mind have many ailments arising from whatever thoughts or beliefs or practices etc. Patanjali’s yoga sutras provide the 8-limbed formula to get away from it all.  Different practitioners or gurus have emphasized different limbs to suit the times and their purpose. Mahatma Gandhi emphasized Yama and Niyamas to uplift hundreds of millions of Indian people out of colonization. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi used dhyana and samadhi to uplift millions of people from deep stress and anxiety of nuclear annihilation towards a vision of a permanent peace. Ramdev used Asana and Pranayama to uplift a billion people from all sorts of ailments.  But from personal stories one knows that any combination of these could cure eyesight, hypertension, and backache etc. Add to it Bhagavad Gita’s message that ‘you are neither born nor do you die’ that also reminds us of our true higher / Yogic self. That is the Truth (capital T) that alone can deliver strong healthy minds.

The language of health needs to change. We are becoming self-educated semi-experts at cancer and hypertension and diabetes and an infinite number of specific diseases and disorders and syndromes that may afflict us. The solution may lie in the language of Chitta vritti nirodha (yoga sutras) and balance of doshas and vikritis (Ayurveda) and harmony (classical / Gandharva music), … and activation of chakras and kundalini and more such vibrational and energetic constructs. The dualist and disease-naming language could be replaced by a more holistic joy-feeling language. As Chomsky famously said that the primary role of language is the self-talk or inner chatter, and not so much communication with others. If the inner monkey-mind chatter could be transformed to coherent silence and awareness, health will be a natural outcome. If health is what we want, a health-ful language may be a starting point.

A health-ful language should be beneficial to the health of body or mind. It should describe something corrective or beneficially effective, even though it may be unpleasant. It should speak to the helpful effects of clean air and water and surroundings. It should speak to what benefits and sustains life physically, mentally, and spiritually. It should make a positive contribution to a healthy condition.

With gratitude to all of you for reading it! 


Covid19 Survey – US vs India

Covid-19 virus has unleashed mayhem in the world, and it has caused many deaths. The pattern of deaths has, however, been uneven. As of the date of publishing (May 18, 2020), there have been 30 times more deaths from #Covid19 in the US (90,000 deaths) than in India (3,000 deaths), even though the US has only one-fourth the population of India. I was curious to find out why it was so.

We conducted a quick 5-minute survey with a simple One-big-question of rank-ordering 9 factors in terms of their importance in causing this huge differential in death rates in the US and India. The 9 factors were: Demography (older population in the US); Sickness (high chronic conditions in the US); Immunity (Indian soil; Yoga, pranayama etc); Culture (greater social cohesion and family support in India); Public Policy (how seriously each country mounted a unified approach); Resources (availability of medical equipment); Genetics (difference in two populations); Diet (more vegetarians in India); Measurement (less reliable data from India). There was a None-of-the above option too. In addition, we added two question on their expectations of the way forward. One was about how long it will take to come out of Covid19 situation into normalcy. And the other was about what might be the markers for returning to normalcy.

We did convenience sampling using social media contacts of the researcher who should be in a position to compare and express their perceptions. 66 respondents from US, India, and other countries, filled out survey. Of the 66 respondents 60% were resident in India, 29% in the US, and 11% in other countries. The respondents including 55% from the researcher’s own age cohort of 55-64 years, while 42% were younger. A couple of respondents were over 65 years. The respondents were 71% male and 29% female.

Here are the main results (see bar chart below). Demographics (Older population) in the US was perceived to be the major cause of higher deaths from Covid-19 in the US than in India. Public policy choices and higher rates of Chronic sickness in the US were also identified as the next important causes for higher deaths in the US compared with India. Higher levels of Immunity was ranked highest as the major reason for lower death rates in India. Culture, Diet and Genetics received only moderate support. Surprisingly, availability of resources was ranked as least important cause.

66 Respondents’ ranking of 9 factors to explain differential death rates in USA and India

Moving forward, half the people (48%) said that it will take 1-2 years to return to normalcy. 31% of respondents said it will take less than one year, while 21% said it will take more than 2 years (see pie-chart below). US residents were twice as likely as Indian residents to think that it might take 2 or more years. For return to normalcy, the preferred enablers were availability of a tried and tested vaccine and a tested cure for Covid19, in that order (see bar graph below). Declining death rates were a lesser important marker, while availability of resources such as PPE was considered the least important marker.

66 Respondents’ expectations of time frame for return to normalcy
66 Respondents’ ranking of factors for return to normalcy

Here below is some more granular analysis.

Age: Respondents in 55-64 years ranked Public policy and Measurement issues higher, while those in 35-44 age group ranked Immunity and Culture (social cohesion) higher, as factors for explaining the differential death rates.

Gender: Male respondents ranked Demographics (aging population) and Measurement issues higher, while Female respondents prioritized Immunity, Diet, and Availability of resources.

Location: Respondents living in Rest of the World (11% of total) ranked Public policy choices and Measurement issues by a wider margin than those living within the US and India. Indian residents ranked Immunity and Culture (social cohesion) as more important. US residents ranked Public policy and availability of Resources as more important issues.

Additional comments from Respondents: One respondent wrote that it may be taboo in the Indian culture to report Covid death from a social stigma perspective. One reported that there is greater resilience to pain in India. One reported that traditional Indian homes include a central space to grow Ayurvedic plants such as Tulsi. Some reported that the cause as well as cure for Covid19 were unclear and should be thoroughly investigated.

Summary: This survey shows that there are different perceptions of what has caused dramatically lower death rates reported in India compared to the US. Development of immunity is considered the best ameliorating factor. An effective public health policy could be another.

Lessons learned: Healthy holistic lifestyle including Yoga Sutras based practices such as asanas, pranayama, and meditation are among the best ways to a create a strong platform of immunity on which specific vaccines can work effectively! In fact, the development of a special vaccine for Covid-19 is essentially a way to increase immunity against this specific virus.

Covid-19 is a very important world-transforming, life-and-death matter. Please write to us as to what you think. If you wish, you may also take 5 minutes to fill out this survey at . Thank you!