The more in debt people are, the worse is their mental health, according to psychiatrists extensively researching in this area. This aspect was discussed elaborately at the just-concluded 65 annual national conference of Indian Psychiatry Society.

R. Srinivasa Murthy from the Association for the Mentally Challenged, who made a presentation, “Disasters and Mental Health”, said that poverty and debt (largely an aftermath of disasters or any other social factors and tragedies) are directly related to the mental health of victims.

Quick response

Quoting various studies and papers by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Murthy, a former professor of psychiatry at NIMHANS, stressed the need for quick rehabilitation post-disasters.

“Immediate rehabilitation will not give the affected population any space to brood over the disaster. There is enough evidence to show chances of mental illness are high among those who have suffered a life event (any tragedy or disaster) and left without support,” he said.

Farmers’ suicides

Elaborating on the conference theme, Psychosocial Adversity and Mental Health, P. Sainath, Rural Affairs Editor of The Hindu, spoke at length to a spellbound audience on issues that lead to farmer suicides across the country.

Mr. Sainath, who described the huge socio-economic disparity between the haves and the have-nots, cited cases of stark contrasts in today’s India.

The government is not doing enough to address the increasing suicide rate among farmers, he said, and called upon mental health professionals to rise to the occasion.

Low compensation

“Most of the farmers who have taken the extreme step are those who have not got any support from the government or society. While the compensation paid to the families of the victims is low, suicides by women farmers are not considered for compensation at all because the land is not in their name. This apart, most suicides are shown as natural deaths to [avoid] compensation,” he said.

Manpower shortage

S. Kalyanasundaram, organising chairperson of the event, said: “Despite the significant increase in the number of mental health professionals in our country, it has not been possible to address all the issues in those who undergo diverse trauma across age groups.”

“This is because there are not more than 8,000 mental professionals in the country,” he said. “The government must open more centres to improve manpower in the field of mental health and introduce psychiatry as a subject at the under-graduate level,” he said.

The conference, which concluded on Sunday was attended by nearly 3,000 psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, psychiatric social workers, psychiatric nurses and counsellors from India and abroad.