Govt launches app for promoting mental health; it must increase its mental health spending for meaningful impact
Mental health has emerged as a crucial area of focus for health intervention in the pandemic. Against the backdrop of over 300 million people affected by depression globally, the WHO’s announcement last year that Covid-19 had halted 93% of mental health service across the world made it clear that Covid-19 will exacerbated issues of mental health. India has done well to push its public health infrastructure to cater for mental health needs to. With the launch of the Manas (Mental Health and Normalcy Augmentation System) app on Wednesday, the government has taken another step in this regard. Manas is designed as a national well-being platform and app that integrates the various health and wellness initiatives of different ministries and brings to the user scientifically validated, indigenously developed tools with “gamified interfaces developed by various national bodies and research institutions.” The initial version focuses on promoting mental health among the 15-35 years age group.
While such initiatives are laudable, the government must look at the larger picture on mental health—more needs to be done to remove stigma and government spending on mental health needs to increase. The flagship government intervention on mental health, the National Mental Health Programme has received a mere Rs 40 crore in Budget FY22, same as what it was allocated last year. The bulk of the mental health budget of just Rs 597 crore has gone to the Bangalore-based National Institute of Mental Health and Sciences. Indeed, in 2017, the year the Mental Healthcare Act was passed, central funds for mental health were under 0.1% of the GDP, compared with Bangladesh’s 0.44%.