India is facing a possible mental health epidemic, says President

Ram Nath Kovind  

Warning that the country is facing a possible mental health epidemic, President Ram Nath Kovind on Saturday expressed concern over the shortage of mental health professionals and said the gap needs to be addressed on priority.

Delivering the 22nd convocation address at NIMHANS here, the President pointed out that there were just about 5,000 psychiatrists and less than 2,000 clinical psychologists in the country while nearly 10% of Indians had one or the other mental health problem.

“The number of affected in India is larger than the entire population of Japan. We need to address this gap and ensure that by 2022 at least those who are suffering from severe mental disorders have been diagnosed and have access to treatment facilities. Let us take it up as a national mission,” he said.

Lauding NIMHANS for its commendable record of treating about 7 lakh patients every year, most of whom are from the poorer sections, the President said the biggest obstacle that patients of mental and neurological problems face was stigma and denial. “This leads to the issue being ignored or simply not discussed. In some cases, it leads to self-diagnosis that could worsen the situation,” he said.

The President called upon society to fight this culture of stigma, and said, “We need to talk about mental health issues and treat ailments such as depression and stress as diseases that can be cured — not as guilty secrets to be pushed under the carpet.”

He said the role of counselling services and of practices such as yoga and Vipassana meditation in helping those with mental health problems should also be explored with greater vigour.

Union Health and Family Welfare Minister J.P. Nadda said his Ministry was focussing on increasing the number of psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, psychiatric nurses, and psychiatric social workers in the country to provide both clinical and ancillary services.

Medical Education Minister Sharanprakash R. Patil said Karnataka was the first State in the country to monitor the District Mental Health Programme (DMHP) through a Web-based system. This has been possible because of a software developed by NIMHANS along with IIT-B, he said. “We are working out modalities to actively involve medical colleges in delivering DMHP services,” he said, and urged Mr. Nadda to provide the required funds to establish the north campus of NIMHANS at the earliest.

NIMHANS director B.N. Gangadhar said nearly 200 postgraduates were conferred degrees during the convocation and 150 received it in person. Eleven candidates were awarded gold medals for their meritorious performance.

New facilities inaugurated

During the convocation, three new facilities were inaugurated and the foundation stone for two more was laid.

Mr. Kovind inaugurated a 125-bed Dr. R.M. Verma Sub-Speciality block for neurosciences built at a cost of ₹82 crore. This block will serve highly specialised disorders in neurology and neurosurgery.

He also inaugurated the Medical Cyclotron Facility, installed at a cost of ₹50 crore. This is a highly specialised radiochemical and radiopharmaceutical equipment that helps doctors develop specific radiopharmaceutical lesions that support investigations in PET–MRI imaging. Another important facility, an intraoperative MRI with three operation theatres set up at a cost of ₹100 crore was also inaugurated.

The President laid the foundation stone for a speciality block in psychiatry and a central laboratory complex, estimated to be built at a cost of ₹50 crore each.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2021 2:01:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/india-is-facing-a-possible-mental-health-epidemic-says-president/article22335971.ece

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