Q.1. The World Health Organisation has highlighted the widespread problem of mental illness in India. What steps have been taken by the government in this regard? Suggest measures to improve the situation. – 250 words.)
Why in news: India is the most depressed country in the world, according to a recent World Health Organisation, followed by China and the USA.
A study conducted by the Word Health Organization in 2015 shows that one in five Indians may suffer from depression in their lifetime, equivalent to 200 million people. Mental illness has been a problem that has not received the attention it deserves.
India is standing on the threshold of a mental health epidemic with a greater number of people affected by mental health issues in the country than the entire population of Japan.
Due to the stigma associated with mental illness, a lack of awareness, and limited access to professional help, only 10-12% of these sufferers will seek help.
Sources: World Economic Forum and Financial Express
Data on India:
A study reported in WHO, conducted for the NCMH (National Care Of Medical Health), states that at least 6.5 per cent of the Indian population suffers from some form of the serious mental disorder, with no discernible rural-urban differences. Though there are effective measures and treatments, there is an extreme shortage of mental health workers like psychologists, psychiatrists, and doctors. India has just about 5,000 psychiatrists and less than 2,000 clinical psychologists.
The average suicide rate in India is 10.9 for every lakh people and the majority of people who commit suicide are below 44 years of age.
According to the National Mental Health Survey (NHMS) of India, 2016, India spends less than 1% of its entire health budget on mental health. 92% of people in need of mental health care do not have access to any form of mental health care.
Sources: The Hindu, India Today and Financial Express
Most vulnerable groups:
According to the NMHS survey, people in the lower income group suffer more from mental health problems and these are the people with least access to mental health treatment. Also, India’s children and youth are more stressed and suffer from anxiety and panic attacks and performance issues more than ever before.
Source: Financial Express
Universal mental health care is now a justiciable right following the enforcement of the Mental Healthcare Act (MHCA), 2017. It is also for the first time that the law has recognised the right to access health care for citizens — and specifically for mental health.
It mandates the government to provide accessible, affordable, acceptable and high quality mental health care by integrating mental health-care services at each level of the public health system, establishing mental health facilities in proportion to the population in each State, and providing free mental health-care to socio-economically deprived sections of the population. Additionally, the government is duty-bound to design and implement mental health promotion and preventive programmes to create awareness about the MHCA using public media.
Source: The Hindu
Challenges in rural areas:
In rural India, the challenges of addressing mental illness are particularly significant. The country lacks resources in the field, and most of the available resources are located in major cities or highly urbanised states. According to the 2015-16 National Mental Health Survey, the number of psychiatrists in the country varied from 0.05 for every 100,000 persons in Madhya Pradesh (central India) to 1.2 in southeastern Kerala.
Source: The Hindu
India needs web-based online portals such as the District Mental Health Programme (DMHP) to reach out to its vast population. More affordable treatment options are required, along with affordable rehabilitation centers like the National Institute of Mental Health Rehabilitation (NIMHR) which received cabinet approval earlier. Mental health awareness campaigns are the need of the hour.
Appropriate budgetary provisions, setting up of State mental health authorities and mental health review boards for monitoring purposes and coordinated efforts on the part of all stakeholders concerned including the civil society would go a long way in solving the problem.
Today, we need to open up and talk about mental health problems. We need to teach our young that having a mental health issue is as normal as having a cold. They need to talk freely and support their peers. The country needs to advance not just in technology but in the way it approaches and accepts mental health issues as part of everyday life.
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