Mental health still mired in stigma, say experts

BENGALURU: A mental health expert has pointed out that in 1978 there were 43 mental health hospitals in the country and not a single one has been added in the last 40 years!

At a panel discussion titled "Out of the shadows: Mental health in India and a time for action" held at National Institute of Advanced Studies, IISc campus, here on Thursday, Professor Mohan Issac, former Independent Faculty member of NIMHANS and current Psychiatry Professor at University of Western Australia, Perth, said, "The stigma surrounding mental health today is more, if not the same. With the way things are going, the stigma will not change even in the next 40 years. From my understanding of Modicare, it does not cover mental health disorders at all."

"There was an information gap earlier and now there is a treatment gap. The belief about the previous generation being less affected by mental disorders is also not true. The myth about them being calm, peaceful, spiritual and supported by a joint family, is an assumption," Issac added.

NIAS Professor Sudipto Chatterjee said, "Resources are limited and the treatment gap is huge in lower and middle income countries like ours. The National Mental Health Survey of 2015 estimates that a startling 90 per cent of Indians do not receive any formal psychiatric care. The situation is dire when those with more serious disorders are denied employment and social inclusion."

Highlighting an example of the discrimination, Chatterjee said, "Those diagnosed with psychosis, schizophrenia or biploar disorder are denied permission to open bank accounts, receive pension as they are considered unfit to deal with money. Even the RBI mandates medical proof before denying anybody bank services."

Dr Hamid Dabholkar of Parivartan Trust said, "Universally, there is supposed to be one psychiatrist for one lakh people. With a population of more than 126 crore, there are only 4,000 psychiatrists in India. Nearly 5% those aged between 18-50 suffer from depression and anxiety disorders, that are unlike general stress."


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