Use of technology and collaboration with organisations at the ground level will serve as a major boost in effective implementation of Mental Health Bill, Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary in Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said today. “We need to use IT as a tool in creating multimedia campaigns, smartphone applications and animated videos to reach out to the masses,” Agarwal said at an event, organised by World Health Organisation India. Speaking on the topic ‘Depression: Let’s Talk’, Agarwal noted that while the new bill had created a country-wide advocacy on the issue of depression, cooperation is needed for its implementation.
“We have made a start with the bill, but to ensure its implementation, we need to reach out to the masses and talk to the organisations who work at the ground level.
“The culmination of efforts and advocacy of last so many years has resulted in having a new mental health act. We must see that the act is not only implemented on paper but also in spirit. We have to move ahead and remove the stigma associated with depression,” he said.
Agarwal recognised the lack of trained professionals as a reason for lower focus on mental health in the country.
“Focus on mental health care has been low due to an unavailability of trained man power, psychiatrists and social workers in some states. That is also the reason that National Mental Health Programme has not taken off with the required speed,” he said.
Agarwal also called for inclusion of mental health services at regular health centres so that the patients “do not face stigma or restriction” in visiting health care units.
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“Integrating mental health with the regular health centres is also important. Mental health checkups should be treated as normal as the regular checkups. Once we are able to do that the situation will improve,” he said.
While Dr Henk Bekedam, WHO representative to India, appreciated government’s initiatives in health policies, he called for proper allocation of funding in districts and rural areas.
“India is still not spending much on health care. The funds given by the government are still on the lower side. Although the National Health Policy of 2017 says 2.5 per cent of GDP should go to the primary health care and the investments should reach the people in need, its proper allocation needs more attention.
“65-70 per cent of the Indians live in rural areas. We know that qualified doctors would not like to visit the rural areas and this also serves as a big challenge,” Bekedam said.