The pandemics have historically taken an enormous toll on governments, finances, organizations, health care systems and people. The present covid-19 pandemic is no different and it has also taken a huge, even though invisible, toll on mental health. Public health experts say there is manifold increase in mental health cases amid the virulent disease with many attributing the rising stress and anxiety levels to isolation, loss of loved ones, economic uncertainty and the fear of contracting the disease.
As per an expert, nearly half of patients do not have any history of mental illness and despite the lifting of lockdowns; the number of cases has remained largely the same.
Without a doubt, 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 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 the Budget 2020 has not increased the allocation either.
Against World Health Organization norms, the mental health personnel are paltry to say the least.
In fact, the figures suggest that dearth 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 in dealing with mental health issues.
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.
Self-harm is also one of the extreme manifestations of mental illness and there is a need to destigmatise mental health issues given the fact that approaching a mental health doctor or consultant is considered to be a major stigma.