Acknowledging “massive scarcity” of mental health professionals in the country, the government said it was “making investments” to bridge the gap, even as it reached out to the civil society to create awareness about the issue.
“There is a massive scarcity of mental health experts in the country, with less than one psychiatrist per lakh of population. The number of psychiatric nurses, psychiatric societies and workers are even less.”But, the government is making investment to bridge the gap, as mental health care aspect has been articulated in our new National Mental Health Policy. But there will be a latent period before we do that, and during this we civil societies and NGOs will have to raise awareness and play a crucial role,” Union Minister of State for Health Anupriya Patel said.
In her address at the the launch of a nationwide campaign to create awareness about psychological disorders on World Mental Health Day , she made references to studies done by WHO in the last few years, while emphasising that there was a need to “broaden” the definition of health in the country.
“It is time to move forward from the mortality figures as the only indicator of health of population. Health should include the ability to think creatively, having an emotional and psychological balance.
“As per WHO estimates, one in four persons will be affected by a mental illness at least once in their lifetime. Also, as per past WHO report, 21 people per lakh of the population commit suicide in India, one of the highest suicide rates in the world,” she said.
According to a 2014 report by the World Economic Forum and Harvard School of Public Health, mental health is expected to cause a loss of USD 1.03 trillion in economic output in the country between 2012-2030.
“We will have to train more medical officers, nurses, counsellors and pharmacists in district hospitals, community and Primary Health Centres,” she said.
According to Indian Medical Association President-Elect Dr K K Aggarwal, “The government estimates that 6-7 per cent of the country’s population lives with major to minor mental health concerns. But we have only 6,500 trained psychiatrists and even fewer psychologists. What is worse is that the stigma and discrimination faced by these people and their families prevent them from seeking guidance.”
Rajya Sabha has already passed the Mental Health Care Bill 2013 which once cleared by the Lok Sabha would replace the Mental Health Act, 1987.
The first ever National Mental Health Policy was launched on October 10, 2014 which seeks to provide universal psychiatric care to the population, 20 per cent of which is likely to suffer some form of mental illness by 2020.
The campaign has been jointly launched by the IMA, the Indian Psychiatric Society and Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone’s Bengaluru-based Live Love Laugh Foundation (TLLLF).