A huge volume of mentally challenged patients have been treated in Madurai district in the last decade under the government sector alone. Through the District Mental Health Programme (DMHP), which was launched in Madurai in 2001, more than 1.5 lakh patients received psychiatric treatment, according to statistics available from the authorities concerned.

As per the figures, 1,47,824 were old cases while 6,676 were registered as new cases in the year 2012, thereby taking the total number of patients to 1,54,500. “Depression, anxiety, alcohol/drug addiction and schizophrenia form the majority of the cases. Free treatment and medication are given to them,” says C. Ramasubramanian, a leading psychiatrist in Madurai and State Nodal Officer of District Mental Health Programme.

He points out that psychiatric disorder is curable, treatable and to some extent preventable if it is identified early and treated. “The person can become productive to family and society once again. He or she will not be a burden on family and society,” Dr. CRS, as he is popularly known, says.

According to him, the mental healthcare network has grown rapidly in Madurai district owing to special training given to doctors at primary health centres on how to identify psychiatric illnesses. “Three per cent of the population in India are estimated to be suffering from mental illness whereas the country has only 5,000 psychiatrists and 2,000 psychologists,” he said.

V. Ramanujam, senior psychiatrist at the Government Rajaji Hospital here, is concerned over medical graduates not willing to take up psychiatry as a speciality. “Somehow, there is still a stigma attached to this profession. There are families reluctant to give their girl in marriage to a psychiatrist. Others feel this speciality will not pay “dividends” l when compared to fields such as cardiology,” he says.

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