The need to promote awareness of mental health at the grassroots, particularly in the interior rural areas, was stressed at a roundtable on ‘Mental health in primary care’ organised by the Vijayawada chapter of the Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS) as part of the World Mental Health Day celebrations here on Saturday.

Vijayawada Chapter president R.K. Ayodhya, secretary V. Sadanandam, former secretary V. Radhika Reddy, IPS national office-bearer Indla Rama Subba Reddy, members P. Krishna Mohan, Raghava Rao and Thara participated in the media interaction programme. Dr. Radhika Reddy said that awareness on mental disorders was very low even in the medical and paramedical staff working in Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs). MBBS students also had very little knowledge about mental diseases because the mandatory posting in the psychiatry wards was just two weeks during the six-year course. For this very reason, the IPS proposed regular training and workshops for those working in PHCs on the developments in treating mental disorders.

The psychiatrist-patient ratio in the country was abysmally low. While there were about 4,000 psychiatrists in the country, the number in the State was between 200 and 250. Unless the doctors and paramedics at the PHC level had knowledge, it would not be possible for mental health patients to get proper and timely treatment. Because of the shortage of psychiatrists, treatment was not available at the tertiary level, she said.

WHO theme

Dr. Ayodhya, giving details of the Mental Health Week celebrations, said that the WHO theme for the World Mental Health Day 2009 was ‘Mental health in primary care: enhancing treatment and promoting mental health’. There were several misconceptions associated with mental disorders, particularly in the rural population, where superstition and other native remedies were still popular, he said. Dr. Ramasubba Reddy said the National Mental Health Programme that was being implemented, to begin with, in select districts in the country would go a long way in promoting mental health at the PHC level.

He mentioned about the impact of media on the psyche of the readers and viewers. The mentally vulnerable could be even pushed to becoming imbalanced and even to committing suicide. He said several mentally unstable cases were brought to his notice after the death of former Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy.

Dr. Krishna Mohan said that the mental depression of the aged was another area where awareness was very poor. While there was treatment for the depression there were ways of checking the progression in other age-related diseases like dementia.

Dr. Raghava Rao said that there was some time gap of several years from the inception of the mental disorder and its final diagnosis and treatment. This was because of the poor awareness at the grassroots level.

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