Government to frame nation’s first mental health policy

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Updated: October 29, 2014 1:11 PM

Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Health Minister made this announcement after a visit to Agra's Institute of Mental Health and Hospital

Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Health Minister made this announcement after a visit to Agra’s Institute of Mental Health and Hospital

Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Health Minister, said that the country’s mental illness burden has grown to such proportions that the government has decided to frame the first ever official national policy on mental health, after a visit to the 155-year-old Institute of Mental Health and Hospital, Agra.
“There has been considerable progress in treatment methods for mental patients and their recovery rates have improved. Unfortunately, society still stigmatises those who suffer from routine psychiatric problems and so their treatment is either delayed or denied. We need to build up a social movement to change mindsets and focus on the human dimension of mental illnesses,” he said.
The Minister also announced that October 10 would henceforth be observed throughout the country as National Mental Health Day.
Dr Harsh Vardhan said, “It will be a day for raising people’s awareness on mental illnesses and removing the false perceptions attached to them. We want a nation that upholds the human rights of mental patients. Also, it will be an occasion to generate awareness against stigmatisation of people with mental illnesses and highlight the symptoms and remedial opportunities for those with depression, schizophrenia, bipolar syndrome, etc.”
The Minister also announced that a National Mental Health Policy is being developed. It will reportedly involve the country’s best experts in the field and cover complex issues linked to this branch of medicine. He also indicated that some more institutions replicating National Institute for Mental Health and Neurological Sciences, Bangalore, are being considered.
He also mentioned that the Centre had granted Rs 28.8 crores to upgrade the infrastructure of the Agra hospital and expand the teaching facilities.
Dr Harsh Vardhan said, “I have already taken the first reformative steps. The Universal Health Assurance Mission (UHAM) which is under development will not ignore mental illnesses. The New National Health Policy, which will come about in consultation with the states, will also have a focus on mental health. Universal Health Insurance, which will be a component of UHAM, will also cover those who need treatment for common problems.”
Admitting that mental health services in India is a neglected area which needs immediate attention, Dr Harsh Vardhan said that despite the existence of a National Mental Health Programme since 1982 there has been a very little effort so far to provide mental health services, particularly in rural areas.

EH News Bureau

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