A new survey highlights acute lack of awareness about mental health in the country

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Updated: October 11, 2019 7:11:20 AM

Although the government launched the National Mental Health Programme in 1982, little has been done to address the problem.

Unlike physical illnesses, there is a stigma attached to mental illness, which needs to be addressed for any effective care to take place.

If the findings of National Mental Health Survey released a few years ago were not worrying enough—the study found that over 150 million patients were in need of active intervention—a new study by Cosmos Institute of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences and World Federation of Mental Health shows that India accounts for 28% of the global suicides. According to a Times of India report, the study covering 10,233 individuals in 175 districts of seven north Indian states found that nearly half of the people were not aware of mental health issues and had no access to mental health facility. While the good part was increased use of technology to disseminate information and provide mental healthcare—87% seemed to favour use of mobile apps and telemedicine—given the high costs, it is possible that it may not be affordable for many in the country. Costs of treatment was listed as a significant deterrent, with 80% reporting that they did not have health insurance or did not know whether a health insurance plan covered mental health. An investigation by NewsMinute found that despite Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India making it mandatory for insurance companies to include mental illnesses in their offerings, not many have done this.

Although the government launched the National Mental Health Programme in 1982, little has been done to address the problem. The aim was to bring mental health service to each district, but that hasn’t happened. While the government passed the Mental Health Care Act, 2017, only 19 states have formed a board in compliance with the regulations. Unlike physical illnesses, there is a stigma attached to mental illness, which needs to be addressed for any effective care to take place. With more students and youth exhibiting signs of depression, there is a need to spread awareness about mental health campaigns—a 2010 Lancet study found that interventions across 10 European countries led to reduction in suicidal rates and ideas among adolescents.

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