The Mental Health Care Bill is expected to be introduced in the winter session of Parliament. Though psychiatrists have reservations about the aims of the Bill, they are looking forward to a framework to provide a starting point.
While psychiatrists say the government should invest more in improving the infrastructure, they seek education of the care-givers, doctors and healthcare workers as patients and their families continue to be isolated and only then can the task of rehabilitation be taken up.
They place the onus on the State governments of coming up with workable models that would include community participation with the focus on ensuring that the patient does not suffer for want of treatment. N.N. Raju, general secretary of the Indian Psychiatric Society, says the National Mental Health Programme is aimed at integrating mental health into general health. “But that could not be achieved as psychiatric disorders were positioned in low priority over other national programmes in view of incentives and accountability. So, the State governments have to come up with workable models.”
While there is not enough trained paramedical psychiatric staff, the free helpline 104 has helped to some extent, says Director of Public Health K. Kolandaisamy.
Even if the State manages to get funds from the Central pool, they will be a one-time investment, usually for five years. This could be used to set up smaller centres with trained manpower to offer medical care and help family manage patients, says the former director of the Institute of Mental Health, R. Ponnudurai.