Giving Compass’ Take:
• India struggles with having enough capacity to address and treat individuals with mental health issues. As they try to create policies and awareness regarding these illnesses, the medical field is not able to support and fully implement a comprehensive mental health care plan for people who need it.
• How can the international community help with training and capacity-building in India? Are there programs already providing support or helping mobilize Indians around mental health awareness?
• Read about health issues caused by severe air pollution in India and how the severity may inspire greener initiatives.
An estimated 150 million people across India are in need of mental health care interventions, both short and long-term, according to India’s latest National Mental Health Survey 2015-16. The survey, which was carried out across 12 states, found that the overall prevalence for current mental health morbidity was 10.6 percent.
Poor awareness about the symptoms of mental illness, stigma and the lack of mental health services available has resulted in a massive treatment gap, with inadequate numbers of trained mental health care professionals. The survey found that, depending on the state, between 70 and 92 percent of those in need of mental health care failed to receive any treatment.
There are just 0.3 psychiatrists, 0.07 psychologists and 0.07 social workers per 100,000 people in India. The lack of mental health care workers is hardly a new, or ignored, issue. In 1982, the government of India began implementing its National Mental Health Program with the broader aim of integrating mental health care with general care. Fourteen years later, the program expanded to the district level with the vision that each of India’s 630 districts would have a District Mental Health Program by 2025.
The objective of the DMHP is to provide community mental health services at the primary health care level by training a mental health team comprised of a psychiatrist, psychologist, psychiatric social workers, and nurses in each district, along with increasing awareness and reducing stigma.
But rollout has been slow. As of 2015, nearly two decades after the program launched, it was only prevalent in 27 percent of districts.
Recognizing this, staff from the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences and the government of Karnataka, in southwest India, realized that community health workers, better known as Accredited Social Health Activists, or ASHA workers, presented a unique opportunity to fill the gap. Starting in 2016, they began giving the workers extra training in identifying and dealing with mental health issues.
Read the full article about India’s mental health issues by Sophie Cousins at Devex International Development
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