As many as 60 million people in India, if not more, are suffering from various forms of mental illness in the country. This number is incidentally equal to the number of people living in South Africa. What is even more worrying is that India does not have sufficient mental health professionals and the government, too, does not spend much in this regard. In fact, India lags behind in these areas on a global scale. Yet another issue – perhaps even a greater one – is that in India suffering from mental illness is almost a taboo and people normally do not wish to discuss it.
Number of people suffering from mental disorders
Almost 10-20 million people, a number which is equivalent of 1-2% of the entire population, are suffering from mental ailments such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. These are mental disorders of the highest order. Almost 50 million people, a number which is almost 5% of the population, are suffering from mental disorders such as anxiety and depression.
Around 0.06% of India’s health budget is spent on mental healthcare. Even Bangladesh spends more than this with 0.44%. Majority of the developed countries spend at least 4% on areas such as mental health research, framework, infrastructure, and talent pool. Indian Government has initiated on 1st June, 2015 a mental health survey to be done on a national scale via National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), based in Bengaluru.
Purpose of the programme
The said programme is supposed to find the number of people afflicted by mental health-related problems in India and how mental health services are utilized in the country. Till 5th April 2016, the study has conducted 27,000 interviews.
Number of mental health professionals
The shortage of mental health professionals is pretty evident at sub-district and district levels. As per a study, in India there are approximately 3800 psychiatrists, 850 psychiatric social workers, 898 clinical psychologists, and 1,500 psychiatric nurses. This means that for each million individuals there are only three psychiatrists. Commonwealth rules and regulations state that for each 100,000 people there should be around 6 psychiatrists. The present number of India is 18 times lower than that particular requisite.
According to these estimates, India still needs around 66,200 psychiatrists. The global average for psychiatric nurses is 21.7 for 100,000 people. By this estimate, India still needs around 269,750 nurses.
Mental Health Care Bill, 2013
Mental Health Care Bill, 2013 was passed on 8th August, 2016 at Rajya Sabha via a voice vote to reach a unanimous decision. It provides people with mental illness certain rights and protects their rights as well. This is done in a community context as well as when these people are treated in a healthcare institution. As per the new bill, centres of excellence dealing with mental health will now get INR 33.70 crores each. They were previously being granted INR 30 crore. Till now, 35 postgraduate training departments that specialize in areas of mental health and 15 such centres of excellence have received the funding. It is expected that this money would be used to reduce the paucity of mental health professionals in India.
Suicides from insanity
In India, suicides owing to insanity came down to 5.4% in 2014 from 7% in 2010, but at least 7000 people have brought an end to their lives because of mental issues.
The national government is attempting to do its bit and one hopes that everything goes well; then India would at least be able to make up the shortage of healthcare professionals and facilities at the very centres that are meant to deal with these critical ailments.
However, the change needs to happen on a grander scale. It has already been said that in India mental illness is a taboo and speaking about it even more so. This means that whenever we suffer from some mental disorder, we treat it as a weakness and try to get over with it by ourselves rather than seeking professional and proper assistance to correct the situation. Our families and communities also make the matter worse by looking down on us, by asking us to not speak of it, and regarding it as a curse rather than as something that can be treated. In the end, we never seek help and the matter only gets worse with time. Governments and doctors can always do their bit, but how will they help people if they don’t want to be helped themselves and if they are stopped from looking for help. We need to change our own mentality before we can expect others – government, doctors, etc. – to do their bit.
We need to come forward and encourage people with issues to open up and share their problems. This can create a sense of belonging that would give rise to confidence and belief that will then allow these people to seek help and get cured. May be, then, they may not even need any medical or professional assistance.