Welfare Minister J.P. Nadda informed the Lok Sabha in May 2016 that nearly 60 million Indians suffered from mental disorders. This number is larger than the entire population of South Africa.
The statistics were quoted from the National Commission on Macroeconomics and Health, 2005 that is the last available report on India’s mental health.
The report highlights some serious concerns and the data reveals that severe mental disorders such as Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder are common in nearly 2 per cent of the Indian population. Depression and anxiety are suffered by another 50 million (5 per cent of Indians).
This shocking data evidences towards the deep malaise gripping our society. India only spends 0.06 per cent of its health budget on mental health care. The 2011 World Health Organisation (WHO) report says that most developed nations spend above four per cent of their budget on mental health research, infrastructure, frameworks and talent pool. Recently, the government has taken several initiatives to address mental healthcare.
A programme by ‘National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences’ (NIMHANS) was started in Bengaluru, to estimate the number of mental patients and utilisation patterns of mental health services. The programme, since its inception on June 1, 2015, has interviewed over 27,000 respondents for its research analysis. However, it is imperative that India addresses the acute shortage of mental health professionals at the district and block level as well.
Today, nationally, there are only 3,800 psychiatrists, 898 clinical psychologists, 850 psychiatric social workers and 1,500 psychiatric nurses. This means that there are three psychiatrists per million people, according to the WHO date. This is 18 times lesser than the commonwealth norm of 5.6 psychiatrists per 100,000 people. The Mental Health Care Bill, 2013 which was passed last month is a beacon of hope. It aims to provide protection and promotion of persons with mental illness. The Bill was passed unanimously by a voice vote in the Rajya Sabha on August 8, 2016. The Bill increases funding for every centre of mental health from Rs 30 crore to Rs 33.70. As of now, 15 centres of excellence in mental health and 35 post-graduate training departments in mental health specialties, have been funded to address the shortage of mental health professionals nationwide.