Agra: Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan Tuesday said that the government is in the process of developing India's first mental health policy to curb the country's mental illness burden.
"Looking at the growing mental illness burden, the government is developing a 'National Mental Health Policy' that will involve the country's best experts in the field and cover the full range of complex issues linked to this branch of medicine," he said.
The minister was on a day-long visit to the 155-year-old Institute of Mental Health and Hospital in Agra.
He said the government is also planning to set up several institutions replicating the National Institute for Mental Health and Neurological Sciences in Bangalore, so people suffering from mental illness can avail treatment.
He said the central government has granted Rs.28.8 crore to upgrade the infrastructure of the Agra hospital and expand the teaching facilities.
The World Health Organization has predicted that about 20 percent of India's population will suffer from some form of mental illness by 2020.
In a significant step towards the cause, Harsh Vardhan said that now onwards, Oct 10 will be observed throughout the country as National Mental Health Day.
"It will be a day for raising people's awareness on mental illnesses and removing the false perceptions attached to them," he said.
"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 and bipolar syndrome," he added.
The minister also went to the Agra Medical College, one of the oldest in the country, where he announced a scheme to upgrade it into an AIIMS-like super-speciality hospital. For this Rs.200 crore would be made available, of which Rs.170 crore would be provided by the central government and the rest by the state government.