History bears testimony that the pandemics take enormous toll on governments, finances, organizations, health care systems and people. The present covid-19 pandemic has already taken a huge, even though, invisible, toll on mental health. The lives have got disrupted, livelihoods of the people hurt or even destroyed. As a consequence, evidently, there is anxiety, fear, stress and trauma.
Let alone Jammu and Kashmir, all states and UTs across the India spends little on mental health care.
If Budget is any suggestion to point it out, the Union financial plan allots very little towards programmes such as National Mental Health Programme (NMHP). In 2019-20, Rs 50 crores were kept for it and Budget 2020 has not increased the allocation it either.
Against World Health Organization norms, the mental health personnel are far far less. In fact, the figures suggest that scarcity is three times. For example, India has around 9,000 psychiatrists, or one doctor for every 100,000 people against WHO norms of three doctors for every 100,000 people. These are structural shortcomings and need thought and lot of finances to overcome. They may be addressed in long run. However, there are immediate needs that are to be addressed on various fronts within a reasonable dispatch. The government needs to be responsible, considerate and humane the way it deals with mental health issues. People of Jammu and Kashmir, for politic and economic upheavals for decades, always remain stressed. The experts in the psychiatric field have been expressing concern over the rising cases of mental illness for a long time now. Going into factors would not be fructifying as the causes attributing to it are known. The present lockdown and its adverse impact on economic wellbeing have exacerbated the situation in the Jammu and Kashmir, more so in the Valley. The question for the concerned authorities as also for the civil society at large is how to take care of the challenges. Passing the buck would not do. The challenges are won by facing front-on rather than sidestepping them. Several ways can be worked out but for present the facilities for treatment, for those under deep stress, need to be upgraded without delay. The facilities should be made available at district and sub district levels. There is need to increase the number of experts and engaging them immediately with those having dire need for the same. There are long term measures such as emphasis on research, training teachers to deal with these problems at school level. These and others should be considered at an appropriate time but should not be brushed under the carpet and delayed perpetually.