‘Need to address mental health issues’


Expressing shock over the fact that India was named the most depressed country in the world by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court observed that though the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 was passed, no sufficient awareness programmes have been conducted to address the issue.

A Division Bench of Justices N. Kirubakaran and B. Pugalendhi observed that according to the WHO report, 7.5 % of India’s population was suffering from some sort of mental illness. All psychological problems are treatable, curable and preventable provided it is identified early and treatment initiated quickly coupled with appropriate rehabilitation, the judges said.

The court expanded the scope of a public interest litigation petition filed by advocate K.R. Raja who had sought a direction to the State to set up a medical wing in either the Madurai or the Tiruchi Central Prison, exclusively to provide mental health care facilities for prisoners with round the clock availability of access to psychiatrists.

The judges pointed out that WHO predicts that by the end of this year, approximately 20 % of Indians will suffer from mental illness. Referring to various reports that were conducted on mental health issues, the judges observed that many were suffering from depression and anxiety and they were in need of active intervention.

When this was the situation, only a negligible amount was being allocated and spent towards mental health. As per reports, the amount spent on mental health for the year 2018-2019 was only ₹ 48 crore. Also, the Mental health force is very low in the country and at a ratio of one psychiatrist per one lakh population, the judges said.

Sufficient number of awareness programmes must be conducted to remove the stigma attached to mental illness and people must be sensitised on these issues. Governments must take appropriate steps to address the issue. There were only a negligible number of hospitals and health care centres for mental health, the judges said.

The court said that there was only one premier research centre in the country dedicated for mental health, the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) at Bengaluru. The need of the hour is to have a Psychiatry Department in every District Headquarters Hospital and a Psychiatrist in every taluk-level hospital.

The court suo motu impleaded various Central Departments in the case as respondents and sought response to a series of questions with regard to the mental health issue in the country, ways to address these issues and the budget allocations. The case was adjourned to December 9 for filing the response to the queries.

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2021 2:54:13 PM |

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