Budget 2019 India: In low-income countries like India, mental health workers availability is as low as 2 per 100 000 people which is about 70 in high-income countries.
By Pooja Priyamvada
Budget 2019 is around the corner and let’s take a closer look at how India can significantly improve and calibrate its approach to tackle the growing problem of mental illness. According to WHO Mental health Atlas 2017, every US$ 1 invested in boosting treatment for depression and anxiety leads to a return of US$ 4 in overall better health and ability to work. China and India account for one third of the global burden of mental illness. Around 36 per cent of the Indian population suffers from major depression. Estimates also indicate that direct and indirect costs of mental ill health amount to over 4 per cent of global GDP which is more than the collective cost of cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease.
Countries such as the UK have begun to measure the national rate of well-being. A notable example is New Zealand is the first country to design an entire budget based on well-being and mental health for the first time ever has received the biggest funding and investment boost, receiving NZ$1.9bn (£980m).
Half a billion was earmarked for the “missing middle” particularly – sufferers of mild to moderate anxiety and depressive disorders that do not require hospitalisation but their quality of life is significantly affected.
The mental health care cost to health care systems and the global economy are immense and yet mental health receives a small fraction of the funding especially in low and middle-income countries like India where both the quality and quantity of mental health services is inadequate.
In May 2019, in the 72nd World Health Assembly, the annual gathering of health ministers from across the world in Geneva mental health advocates will be pressing for integration of mental health in national and international plans for Universal Health Coverage and more funds for mental health.
In low-income countries like India, mental health workers availability is as low as 2 per 100 000 people which is about 70 in high-income countries. The proportion of public expenditure on mental health is gravely ow in low- and middle-income countries. Government expenditure on mental health is less than 1 US$ per capita there whereas high-income countries spend more than US$ 80 per capita.
The majority of this spending is going to mental hospitals, which only serve a small proportion of those who need mental health care. Therefore, Budget 2019 needs to focus on well-being in a wholesome way and emphasise the integration of mental health services in basic health care system in India, thereby improving availability, accessibility and affordability.
(Pooja Priyamvada is a social media enthusiast, an avid blogger and a columnist on issues pertaining to mental health and holistic wellness. Views expressed are author’s own.)