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Mental health care in India in the news

Aamir Khan, yet again, managed to grab viewers’ attention last Sunday,when he talked about one of the most serious health issues in India — mental health.

From discussing the stigma around mental health issues, to challenges facing mental healthcare in India and treatment options, the last  Satyamev Jayate episode talked about all aspects of the problem.Satyamev Jayate is a weekly television show in India created and hosted by Aamir Khan. It highlights social issues prevalent in India and discusses possible solutions. For our international readers, who do not know Aamir Khan, he is one India’s leading film actors, a director, screenwriter, producer and television presenter.

Last month , Health Issues India had covered an article on mental illnesses and health care in India . This  has been a neglected area till now due to factors such as ignorance, stigma and the lack of doctors. The India Mental Health Bill 2013 had aimed to provide for mental health care and services for persons with mental illness and to protect, promote and fulfil the rights of such persons during delivery of mental health care and services .It was introduced in parliament in August 2013, but the bill has so far not  been passed.

According to an article by James T Antony in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, the Mental Health Care Bill 2013 had an over-inclusive definition for mental illnesses.  He felt that this would hurt a huge number of victims  suffering from even minor mental illnesses and their families, because of the wide prevalence of stigma.He also mentioned some  gaps and criticisms of Mental Health Bill 2013 which can be read here.

The Union Ministry of Health has recently come up with a plan for country’s first national policy on mental health which it wanted to announce before October 10-World Mental Health Day . Mental illness in India has grown so much that the government has promised to frame its first national policy on the issue”, said Health Minister Harsh Vardhan in this article.“We need to build up a social movement to change mindsets and focus on the human dimension of mental illnesses.”.

However, according to this article in the TOI,  this new draft  is “plucked out entirely from its predecessor”.Apparently, experts from public and premier institutes such as AIIMS and PGI, were called on September 29 in New Delhi by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to start working on its adoption. However, sources in the Union ministry said the draft was prepared by a task force in 2011 by the previous government. A key gap (amongst others as mentioned in the article) is that there are no specific provisions for mentally-disabled children, old persons, adolescents and women.

“One in five  people suffer from a mental illness sometime or the other in India” said an another previous Times of India article. Depression is one of the biggest triggers of suicide in India, which accounts for more than 258,000 of the 804,000 suicide deaths worldwide in 2012, according to the WHO.Therefore, it is imperative that this field needs to be given more priority  in the country’s health care agenda and the MOHFW needs to address the  current gaps in the draft of the national policy. Health Issues India will be following this issue closely and bring you updates as they happen.

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