Considering the high prevalence of mental disorders that has engulfed our country, we still face a dearth of mental health care professionals. Even with the need of good mental care for the majority of population which is desperate and immediate, the respite, however, is nowhere near.
India has the highest rate of suicides in the 15-29 age category, with 36% of us likely to suffer from major depression or anxiety at some point in our lives. It’s high time we address the elephant in the room, and that is the issue of mental health epidemic in our country.
We all know that stigma surrounding mental health is a major reluctance to seek help. However, what happens when we finally go past our aversion; is the country well-equipped to aid the needful?
We have just 0.4 psychiatrists and 0.02 psychologists per 100,000 persons and 0.25 mental health beds per 10,000 persons in our country. This makes the availability of health care officials limited in nature, and with most of them being private in nature, it’s not difficult to interpret that the rural population doesn’t enjoy the already rare facilities.
Shockingly, the government just spends 0.83% of its total health budget on mental health. Why to waste money in protection of human resources, when we are busy accumulating material resources?
It’s no surprise that people who are convicted of crimes, don’t get the mental treatment they deserve and should rightfully get. Criminal psychiatry assesses the offender’s ability to understand the charges against them. This refers to their ability to understand right from wrong and what is against the law, and make them understand the magnitude of the crime.
One of the important factors stopping people from seeking help is that the imagery of a mental-healthcare unit or hospital is frightening and downright deplorable. The government run mental health care facilities are unhygienic and deteriorating in nature. Apparently, it’s not deemed fit by the authorities to make the centres more workable for the new or existing patients suffering form mental disorders.
As if, these reasons were not enough, insurance companies do not provide medical insurance to people who are admitted with mental illness. How do we expect people to seek help when we do not provide them basic financial support?
India launched its first ever National Mental Health Policy in 2014 which provides universal psychiatric care and includes psychiatric treatment in primary health care. But, the country still has to go a long way before it can develop an all-inclusive mental health ecosystem.
It is also required that our country includes mental health services within the insurance umbrella, so that the cost of seeking such care should be covered.
Thus, there is an immediate need to increase the spending in establishing more institutes, training centres and treatment facilities, running large scale awareness campaigns to eliminate social stigma, providing affordable facilities and cover by insurance.