Need for a Realistic Mental Health Programme in India

By Barua, Ankur | Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, January-June 2009 | Go to article overview

Need for a Realistic Mental Health Programme in India


Barua, Ankur, Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine


Byline: Ankur. Barua

India, with a population of a billion, has very limited numbers of mental health facilities and professionals in providing mental health care to all the people. The disability associated with mental or brain disorders stops people from working and engaging in other creative activities. Gradual implementation of district mental health programme in a phased manner with support of adequate managerial and financial inputs is the need of the day. Trained mental health care personnel, treatment, care, and rehabilitation facilities should be made available and accessible to the masses. The voluntary organizations should be encouraged to participate in mental health care programme.

Introduction

In India, at a given point of time, nearly 15 million people suffer from serious psychiatric illness, and another 30 million from mild/moderate psychiatric problems.[sup] [1] The disability associated with mental or brain disorders stops people from working and engaging in other creative activities.[sup] [2]

Community Care of Mentally Challenged Individuals[sup] [3]

Early in the 1960s and 1970s, it was beginning to be realized that long-term institutional care of all the needy mentally ill was neither possible nor desirable. The answer was deinstitutionalisation and community care. At that time, the best we could hope for was compassionate custodial care within the four walls of a mental asylum. These ill people were left there, often for life, by their relatives and community, who would then forget about them. It says a lot for the progress made over the years, even in our country, that we talk not only of treating mentally challenged patients in their own surroundings, but also of involving the community in preventing as well as in promoting mental health.

Need for a Realistic Mental Health Programme in India[sup] [4],[5],[6]

India, with a population of a billion and very limited numbers of mental health facilities and professionals (one bed per 40,000 population and three psychiatrists per million population), is confronting the complex issues of providing mental health care to its entire people. There are a few steps taken in the right direction, namely the launching of the National Mental Health Programme-NMHP (1982), adoption of Mental Health Act (1987), persons with disability Act (1995), and integration of the mental health with primary health care at district level.

Though the implementation of the NMHP had an initial spurt, but later, there were delays in its expansion. Any programme howsoever well planned cannot succeed unless there are no takers. There is an urgent need for proper IEC, i.e. information, education, and communication about the mental illness among the masses. This will not only help in breaking the age-old myths and false beliefs about the mental illness but also prevent the neglect of mentally ill and there abandonment at places like Erwadi, in Tamil Nadu.

Inspiration to this effect can be taken from the fact of extreme popularity of programmes like DATE on Radio in 1992 and Mindwatch on TV in 1997. The widespread availability and reach of media can be further utilized for this purpose. Also extra care should be taken to prevent misuse of media like films and television for wrong depiction of mentally ill persons and methods of treatment such as ECT.

The role of psychiatrists will be central in any effort that is intended to be of benefit for the mentally challenged. …

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