Psychiatrists ask PM to launch awareness campaign on mental illness

Concerned over an alarming rise in suicide cases in India, leading psychiatrists and mental health experts Thursday made a plea to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to launch a nationwide awareness campaign to remove the social stigma associated with mental illnesses.

New Delhi: Concerned over an alarming rise in suicide cases in India, leading psychiatrists and mental health experts Thursday made a plea to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to launch a nationwide awareness campaign to remove the social stigma associated with mental illnesses.

India's demographic profile shows that it has the largest youth resources in the world with over 66 percent of its population below the age of 35 years. However, this age group is seriously threatened by mental illnesses, they said.

"Mental health issues pose serious public health concerns, but these are amongst the most neglected health issues due to social factors. The stigma and lack of awareness dissuade even the educated sections of the society from receiving timely intervention," Sunil Mittal, senior psychiatrist, Cosmos Institute of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences (CIMBS) said.

He said there is an urgent need to launch a nationwide campaign that would take into account the entire gamut of mental health issues and suggest measures to remove the obstacles for accessing timely and proper treatment.

"Mental disorders are a leading cause of disabilities and suicides. While universal health is incomplete without sound mental health, but up to 85 percent of people with severe mental health disorders in our country do not receive any treatment or care," Mittal said.

"Perhaps the most daunting aspect of meeting the rising challenge posed by mental illnesses is the societal stigma that constitutes an immense barrier to the access to treatment," he said.

Of the approximately seven billion people worldwide, 350 million suffer from depression, 120 million from anxiety disorders, over 100 million from alcohol and drug abuse disorders and 24 million people from schizophrenia, according to the WHO.

Mitali Srivastava, senior clinical psychologist at CIMBS said: "The essential requirements for the sufferers are appropriate diagnosis, relevant assessments and opportune treatment followed up with rehabilitation for chronic cases like schizophrenia, for a better success rate".

Sadiya Afzal Khan, associate psychiatric social worker at CIMBS said: "Psycho-social rehabilitation for people with chronic psychiatric illness helps them re-learn and regain lost skills that are required for a smooth functioning in their daily routines. It also brings a sense of respect and self esteem to both patients and their care-givers".

However, such psycho-social rehabilitation remains an alien concept in many parts of India, despite the soaring need for such programmes and the scope of such programmes to play a very productive role, she added.

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