While on a visit to the Mental Health Hospital in Agra, Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan announced that October 10 would be observed as the National Mental Health Day.
New Delhi: Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Health Minister, today announced that a National Mental Health Policy is being developed with the involvement of the country’s best experts in the field. The proposed policy will cover a range of complex issues linked to this branch of medicine.
Dr Harsh Vardhan made the announcement while on a visit to the 155-year-old Institute of Mental Health and Hospital in Agra.
Underlying the urgency for a policy of the subject, the minister expressed his concern over the growing mental illness burden in the country.
The Health Minister admitted that mental health services in India is a neglected area which needs immediate attention from the government, policymakers, and civil society organisations. Despite the existence of a National Mental Health Programme since 1982 there has been a very little effort so far to provide mental health services, particularly in rural areas, he said.
Dr Harsh Vardhan said, “I have already taken the first reformative steps. The Universal Health Assurance Mission (UHAM) which is under development will not ignore mental illnesses. The New National Health Policy, which will come about in consultation with the states, will also have a focus on mental health. Universal Health Insurance, which will be a component of UHAM, will also cover those who need treatment for common problems.”
As one of the significant steps in this direction, the Minister announced that October 10 would henceforth be observed throughout the country as National Mental Health Day.
Dr Harsh Vardhan said, “It will be a day for raising people’s awareness on mental illnesses and removing the false perceptions attached to them. 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, bipolar syndrome, etc.”
The Minister said he was moved by the tragedy that fills the lives of mental patients in the Agra facility. In this connection he mentioned that the Centre had granted Rs 28.8 crore to upgrade the infrastructure of the Agra hospital and expand the teaching facilities.
He also indicated that some more institutions replicating National Institute for Mental Health and Neurological Sciences, Bangalore, are being considered.
“There has been considerable progress in treatment methods for mental patients and their recovery rates have improved. Unfortunately, society still stigmatises those who suffer from routine psychiatric problems and so their treatment is either delayed or denied. We need to build up a social movement to change mindsets and focus on the human dimension of mental illnesses,” he said.
World Health Organisation has predicted that about 20 percent of India’s population would suffer from some form of mental illness by 2020. The country has only about 3,500 psychiatrists. Therefore, the government is confronted with the problem of lowering this gap significantly over the next decade.