New Delhi: Faced with shortage of manpower for treatment of mental illnesses, the government is working towards increasing the number of professionals required to facilitate medical help for those affected by such diseases.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has already set up 11 centres of excellence and 23 departments of psychiatry in various government medical colleges across the country, to help create more trained manpower in this regard.
"The creation of these centres of excellence and departments of psychiatry will help create more seats for professionals required to treat patients with mental illness," said Sujaya Krishnan, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
She said nine more such departments were in the process of being set up in the country. Though the ministry has set a target to establish 120 such departments by the end of the 11th Plan, the aim is unlikely to be achieved till next year.
With this, two new seats for MD in psychiatry in these centres of excellence and 8 seats for M Phil in clinical psychology and psychiatric social work, besides 20 seats for diplomas in psychiatric nursing are being created in each of the new departments of psychiatry in medical colleges.
As per estimates, the treatment gap of common mental disorders is about 80-90 per cent in developing countries and that for severe mental disorders is approximately 50 per cent in developing countries, even as mental illnesses are the major causes of suicides across the globe.
There is a one to two per cent prevalence of severe mental illness in India, while the overall lifetime prevalence rate of mental disorders is 10 to 12 per cent.
With only about 4,500 psychiatrists across the country (as registered with the Indian Psychiatrist Society), there is a considerable gap in the availability of trained manpower in the country.
To highlight and sensitise the people on mental health problems which pose a big challenge, the National Mental Health Programme of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, is organising a series of activities during the Mental Health Week being observed between October 10 and 17.
These activities are part of a pilot awareness campaigns to increase public knowledge on mental health to empower citizens to recognise, accept and support action; to break the stigma that surround and confound mental health problems. The Public Health Foundation of India is a key partner in conceptualising and implementing these activities.
To draw public attention to a spectrum of mental health issues, a Festival of Creative Expressions on Mental Health -"Uniting Hearts and Minds", is being organised between October 10 and 11 at India International Centre in New Delhi, where which films will be screened, discussions at expert levels will be held and student-led performances given.
As a run-up to the Festival, street plays are being organised in north and northwest parts of Delhi. In addition, the M F Hussain Art Gallery at Jamia Millia Islamia will showcase an exhibition of student paintings and photographs on the issue between October 10 and 17.
Reflecting on the impact of mental health as a serious health problem, Keshav Desiraju, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said, "We must work together to remove the stigma associated with mental illness. Persons with such illness need care, treatment and affection.
This is the message that young people attending this festival must take away with them."