Mental Health Issues

The minister of health and family welfare, Dr Mansukh Mandaviya, informed parliament, in its monsoon session, that according to the National Mental Health Survey conducted by the Government through National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore, the prevalence of mental disorders including common mental disorders, severe mental disorders, and substance use disorders (excluding tobacco use disorder) in adults over the age of 18 years is about 10.6%. As per the major findings of the survey , the prevalence of mental morbidity is high in urban metropolitan areas; mental disorders are closely linked to both causation and consequences of several non-communicable disorders (NCD); nearly 1 in 40 and 1 in 20 persons suffer from past and current depression, respectively and Neurosis and stress related disorders affect 3.5% of the population and was reported to be higher among females (nearly twice as much in males).

Also data indicate that 0.9 % of the survey population was at high risk of suicide and that nearly 50% of persons with major depressive disorders reported difficulties in carrying out their daily activities.

The covid-19 pandemic has surely aggravated the situation, leaving those having such issues to struggle with the symptoms and disabilities that result from what is basically and undeniable a disease which to a large extent is curable. What makes the challenge more difficult is stereotypes and prejudice such people face purely as a result from misconceptions about mental illness. As a result, people with mental illness are robbed of the opportunities that define a quality life—good jobs, satisfactory health care, and association with a diverse group of people.

The people having mental illness not only face the public stigma which is the reaction that the general population has towards them but also self-stigma which is defined as prejudice which they turn against themselves.

For providing affordable and accessible mental healthcare facilities to the population, including the poor and underprivileged, the Minister informed the parliament that the government is implementing the National Mental Health Programme (NMHP) in the country.

In addition, the Minister said the Government is also taking steps to strengthen mental healthcare services at primary healthcare level.

Also operational guidelines on Mental, Neurological, and Substance Use Disorders (MNS) at Health and Wellness Centres (HWC) have been released under the ambit of Ayushman Bharat. While these steps are in the right direction, the government needs to keep working to augment the infrastructure and also take more and more measures to ensure prompt awareness about the availability of the services.  There is also a need for improving access to preventive and curative mental services.

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