Problems with regard to mental health should not be ignored, said Vice-Principal of Andhra Medical College N.N. Raju on Sunday.

Speaking on the eve of World Mental Health Day at a free mental health camp conducted by Maharshi Foundation at Masjid junction near Jagadamba, he said that the stigma attached to problems relating to mind should be removed to bring more patients to specialist care.

Dr. Raju, a senior professor in mental health, said Mental Health Day was observed all over the world on October 10 to create awareness and remove the stigma among the public. This year, the World Mental Health Federation has given the slogan `the great push-investing in mental health.' He said the stigma attached to mental illness was the biggest roadblock in delivering psychiatric services. He said at any given time, 10 per cent of the population suffered from mental illnesses.

One in every fourth family had a psychological problem, he observed. One-third of all patients who attend non-psychiatrist for some physical illness had in fact suffered from mental illness. The raise in suicide and marital discord were cause for alarm for all those who work in the psychiatric field, he pointed out.

The specialist resources that were available to tackle such a huge problem were not in proportion to the requirement. Dr. Raju said there were only 4,000 psychiatrists in India constituting 0.3 per cent compared to four per cent in the rest of the world. The percentage of clinical psychologists and psychiatric nurses are 0.1 while the developed countries have 6.5 and 12.6 per cent respectively.

Dr. Raju said there were 0.3 psychiatric beds per 10,000 Indians while the world average was 4.4. The government spends one per cent of the health budget on mental health, he said and suggested that mental health services should be merged with other health programmes.

Minimum psychiatric services should be available in rural areas and involvement of basic health workers and strengthening of medical teaching should be the priority for all health planners, he opined.

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