Lockdown shows up gaps in access to mental health experts

Covid-19 Health

In India, for every  100,000 people, there are only 0.07 psychologists, 0.29 psychiatrists, and 0.80 nurses, according to the WHO.

Bengaluru: Increase in the number of mental health patients also meant an increase in the demand for mental health professionals (MHPs) during the lockdown.

“India saw a 20 percent rise in mental health cases during the lockdown,” said Dr.Rajni from the National Health Mission. “Be it a common mental health disorder, alcoholism and substance abuse cases, or anxiety-related cases,” she added.

 “The major problem was finding a good counsellor,” said Anwesha Das who has recently recovered from mental health issues.“Initially, it was not easy, and I didn’t know whom to talk to. People who need help are rarely heard.”

WHO stated that India’s mental health workforce is also not up to the mark, and there is still a massive shortage of psychologists and psychiatrists. The report said India only has 0.07 psychologists, 0.29 psychiatrists, and 0.80 nurses, while ideally it should be three psychologists and psychiatrists per 100,000 people.

A Lancet study reported that in 2017, 197.3 million people had mental disorders in India Roughly one in seven Indians is affected by mental illnesses of varying severity. The treatment gap in India is also huge. Only one in 10 people with mental health disorders are thought to receive evidence-based treatment.

“It is not a crime to have a mental health issue. Taboo should be set apart, and none should be discriminated.,” says Leena Jacob, a family and welfare counsellor. Mental health issues in many parts of India are still considered a stigma, because of which people suffering hesitate to come forward and talk about it, she added.

 “There was a big difference in the number of inquiries pre-lockdown and post-lockdown. It was sometimes difficult to take in so many inquiries,” said Ms. Jacob. “There is a dire need for more psychiatrists in the country,” she added.

The mental health workforce is directly affected due to a lack of funding in the mental health sector. “There is a need for more funds to be allocated to the mental health program, which would help improve the quality and availability of India’s mental health workforce,” said Dr. Rajani from the National Health Mission.  

Over the past several years, only Rs. 40 crores out of the Rs 579 crore allotted to mental health in the budget has been allocated for the National Mental Health Programme (NMHP). According to Dr. Rajni, Karnataka has spent around 87 percent of the funds allotted under NMHP, an improvement. Since 2016 Karnataka has taken strides for the betterment of mental health programs.


2 thoughts on “Lockdown shows up gaps in access to mental health experts

  1. There is such a big need for the mental health workforce in India and talking about mental health openly. Your article brings out this issue very well. Great work.

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