President Ram Nath Kovind on Saturday said that India was possibly facing a ,”mental health epidemic”. The President said this at the 22nd convocation of the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences here (NIMHANS) in Bengaluru.
“For those who are getting their degrees at the convocation, the real challenge has just begun. They are going into a world where their skills are acutely needed more than ever before,” the President said.
“India does not simply have a mental health challenge… it is facing a possible mental health epidemic,” he added.
Pointing out several reasons for this, he said the country was experiencing technological, economic and demographic changes that were transforming the nature of diseases.
The President also expressed concern over the shortage of mental health professionals in the country. He said there were just 5,000 psychiatrists and less than 2,000 clinical psychologists in the country.
“Especially for the purpose of diagnosis of mental illnesses, it will be advisable to use (the services of) physicians, psychologists who teach in colleges and educational institutions as well as auxiliary nurses and midwives who are at the front line of public health system across the country,” he said.
He stressed on the need for providing access to treatment facilities to those suffering from mental disorders by 2022.
President Kovind said that when India celebrates its 75th Independence Day in 2022, it should be ensured that at least those suffering from serious mental disorders have been diagnosed and have access to treatment facilities.
“Let us take this up as a national mission,” he urged.
He asked the government, non-government and all related public and private institutions to contribute to the effort. He also urged NIMHANS, the country’s premier health institute, to draw a road map to achieve the goal.
On the NIMAHNS’s mental health survey, the President said the findings were alarming as 10 per cent of Indians have one or more mental health problems.
The number of Indians suffering from mental health problems is larger than the entire population of Japan, he said.
He also spoke about the stigma attached to mental illnesses which made people brush the matter under the carpet. In some cases it led to self diagnosis that could worsen the situation, the President explained.
“Our society has to fight this culture of stigma…We need to talk about mental health issues and treat ailments such as depression and stress as diseases that can be cured,” he said.
(With inputs from PTI)