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NHRC holds meeting of State health secretaries on Mental Healthcare

NHRC holds meeting of State health secretaries on Mental Healthcare

A day-long Meeting of State Health Secretaries on Mental Healthcare was organized by the National Human rights Commission in New Delhi. Inaugurating it, Mr. Justice Cyriac Joseph, Acting Chairperson, NHRC said that the rehabilitation of mentally-ill patients, among other issues, remains is a key area of concern in the area of Mental Healthcare and Governments should recognize this fact that they need to have a positive attitude towards NGOs, who can play a big role in addressing this concern

Mr. Justice Cyriac Joseph said that having a new law on Mental Healthcare may be useful but we have already enough laws. The real problem does not lie in the absence of a law but in failure to implement the existing ones. Intellectually, we are concerned about the attention, the Mental Healthcare should receive but that does not take us to change of mindsets, attitude and change of heart. Unutilized funds by States for Mental Healthcare could be one of the manifestations of this attitudinal problem. Also, we do not have an explicit culture of recognizing the role being played by each person in a system, including those involved in the Mental Healthcare, by appreciating their work in order to further motivate them.

He said that the Mental Health is an important human right and the NHRC is deeply committed to protect this human right and willing to cooperate with all the stakeholders in this regard.

The day-long meeting has been called to deliberate upon the following objectives and come out with suggestions:

  1. Discuss ways for better implementation of the National Mental Health Programme (NMHP) and especially the District Mental Health Programme (DMHP), infrastructure and manpower development in the States/UTs;

  2. Discuss ways for better utilization of funds allocated by Government of India for various components of NMHP;

  3. Sharing of good practices on Mental Care including rehabilitation in States/UTs; and

  4. Discuss ways for proper rehabilitation of cured patients in the community.

On the key issue of funds from the Centre to the States and non-utilization of the same by them, it was felt that whereas the States needed to use them and submit Utilization Certificates, the Centre will ensure timely release of more funds for Mental Healthcare.

Some of the other important suggestions were as follows:

  1. Psychiatry must be made compulsory for all Under-Graduate students to meet the shortage of doctors in Mental Healthcare.

  2. All General Medical Practitioners must be provided training on basic Mental Healthcare.

  3. The medical staff put on duty in Mental Healthcare should have a specialized training.

  4. Train civil servants regarding the District Mental Health Programme to help them integrate it with National Rural Health Mission and other flagship programmes having a health component such as ICDS.

  5. Innovate and fine tune the District Mental Health Programme while applying it in urban areas.

  6. Strengthen the NGO support base in Mental Healthcare.

  7. Develop clear guidelines on salaries of various categories of Mental Healthcare professionals and ensure regular disbursement of funds for that purpose.

  8. The rehabilitation mechanism under District Mental Health Programme requires to be strengthened.

  9. Livelihood of the cured persons must be linked to their treatment.

  10. States and UTs must consider learning and adopting the good practices of each other in the Mental Healthcare.

  11. District Mental Health Programme must be fine tuned to pay special attention to the issues of homeless mentally-ill persons.

Earlier, Mr. S.N. Mohanty, Secretary General, NHRC gave an insight into the efforts made by the Commission towards improvement of Mental Healthcare and said that the Commission is of the firm view that its guidelines and recommendations will give positive results.

Mr. Anshu Prakash, Joint Secretary, Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare expressed the hope that the new Mental Healthcare Bill will be ready this year for consideration of the Cabinet and will be a landmark Act. He said that the Centre is paying a focused attention towards Mental Health issue and expressed concern that States were not utilizing funds meant for Mental Healthcare.

Mr. Prakash said that Mental Healthcare needs affirmative action. The National Mental Health Programme (NMHP) is not receiving the due attention from the States. They need to set targets and fix responsibilities to ensure that there is affirmative action on improving the Mental Healthcare. The huge shortage of human resources, including medical and para-medical staff, lack of infrastructure and general awareness about the Mental Health continues to remain a problem. Nobody talks of co-morbidity of Mental Health with other diseases, which cannot be handled alone either by a psychiatrist or a psychologist without inter-sectoral coordination. Inter-Ministerial as well as institutional cooperation is also very important for addressing the Mental Health issues. Private sector must contribute in building infrastructure and medical students while doing MBBS should be exposed to this subject.

The participants include, among others, NHRC Members, Mr. Justice D. Murugesan and Mr. S.C. Sinha, senior officers, Special Rapporteurs, State Health Secretaries, Mental Health experts and academicians, Heads of Mental Health Institutions and civil society representatives.

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