Budget 2021 Expectations: Covid shows India can no longer neglect mental health

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New Delhi | Updated: Jan 07, 2021 4:25 PM

Union Budget 2021 Expectations for Health: In Budget 2020, the Central government had budget estimates of 67,484 crore towards the health sector for the financial year of 2020-2021. In Budget 2021, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman must look to increase the budget for the health infrastructure and make more investments in mental health programmes.

Health Budget 2021 Expectations, Budget 2021 Expectations for HealthBudget 2021: Several experts in health sector have cited the abysmal state of budget allocation and operationalization in health sector in India. (Reuters image)

Union Budget 2021-22 Expectations for Health: Covid pandemic has not only shattered economies, livelihoods but also cast a detrimental impact on our mental health. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated that the ongoing Covid pandemic disrupted critical mental health services in 93 percent of the countries across the globe. In Budget 2021, while the Central government will look to spend more on public healthcare, it must not ignore mental healthcare.

In Budget 2020, the Central government had budget estimates of 67,484 crore towards the health sector for the financial year of 2020-2021. In Budget 2021, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman must look to increase the budget for the health infrastructure and make more investments in mental health programmes.

“According to a survey by the WHO, the coronavirus pandemic disrupted critical mental health services in 93 percent of the countries worldwide. Isolation, the loss of loved ones, economic uncertainty and fear of the disease have caused an alarming spike in cases of stress and anxiety. As such, the Union government spends less than 0.05 percent of the total health budget on mental health. With just one mental health professional per 13000 people, most mental health specialists shoulder an unreasonably excess case load without recourse to any form of institutional support. The situation has only gotten worse due to the pandemic. We need to increase investment in mental health programs and destigmatize the conversation surrounding it in both professional and personal spaces. Virtual consultations can help increase access to mental health facilities in areas with a shortage of trained professionals. In the budget, the government should also launch awareness programs to promote complementary systems of medicine naturopathy and yoga, which take a more holistic approach by means of structured exercises, dietary modifications and lifestyle changes to help overcome stress-related problems,” Dr. Shuchin Bajaj, Founder Director, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals said.

“Several experts in health sector have cited the abysmal state of budget allocation and operationalization in health sector in India. Despite COViD pandemic highlighting the huge economic impact of a health sector inadequacy that forced us to go in a state of lockdown, the healthcare allocation in health sector is just 1 per cent of GDP as against the target of spending 2.5 per cent,” Dr. Jyoti Kapoor, Founder, Manasthali said.

“While health sector remains low priority, mental health sector is neglected even further with an embarrassing 0.06 per cent of health budget spent on National Mental Health Program. This is the scenario when India has the highest suicide rate among your, the largest number of mental health patients in the world and a treatment gap of over 70 per cent. The need of the hour is thus to acknowledge that mental illness contributes to the significant socioeconomic impact on the country’s overall health and unless there is adequate investment in promoting awareness, education and infrastructure, the loss to economy due to disabilities associated with mental health issues are likely to be far greater than envisaged,” Dr. Jyoti Kapoor said.

“Stress in general causes decline in performance, not just at the individual level but at an industrial level, we are seeing more and more patients of work-related stress and burnout and since the online work from home scenario has started during the pandemic, unstructured routines and extensive work hours have had a major toll on people’s work performance. The short-sighted competitive work culture in India has become not just stressful but traumatic due to long working hours, job insecurity, ambitious targets, and a hostile environment which directly impacts the performance and economics in the long run. Due to associated stigma, people don’t seek help and those who do, do t want to talk about it which further increases the working day losses. According to WHO, India will suffer economic losses amounting to a staggering 1.03 trillion from mental health conditions between 2012 and 2030. Unless policymakers wake up to the alarm of mental health pandemic knocking at our door, we are likely to see far more suicides, violence, neglect, abuse, drug and law and order problems which will invariably drain our resources keeping us a developing nation forever,” Dr. Jyoti Kapoor said.

“In the wake of the COVID crisis, the importance of providing affordable and accessible healthcare has become a critical requirement for the wellbeing of people. This necessitates the healthcare sector be accorded the status of a priority sector, unlike all these years, and enable access to funds as well as tax incentives to improve the affordability of care. India must allocate more funds to generate awareness about non-communicable diseases in people and induce behaviour change in order to control it. Focussed approach for rapidly spreading NCDs such as cancer and diabetes will go a long-way to control both morbidity and mortality,” Nikky Gupta, Co-founder, and Director, Teamwork Communication Group said.

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