5 challenges before mental healthcare in India

  • Neeraj Santoshi, Hindustan Times, Bhopal
  • Updated: Jan 27, 2016 17:19 IST

Psychiatrists assembled in Bhopal recently for a conference admitted that their profession itself was in need of support as much as their own patients.

As many as 2,500 delegates, including over 1,000 psychiatrists, are here for the Indian Psychiatric Society’s four-day national conference concluding on Sunday.

HT spoke to some renowned psychiatrists who listed five main challenges facing the mental healthcare system in India.

Lack of enough psychiatrists

For over 121 crore people in India, there are only 4,500 to 6,000 psychiatrists, said Indian Psychiatric Society president Dr G Prasad Rao.

The norm should be at least one doctor for every 10,000 people, he said. “But right now, we have one doctor for every 2.5 lakh people.”

More doctors at primary and secondary level ought to be given basic training in psychiatry, he suggested.

Less psychiatry seats

Roughly 300 postgraduates and 200 diploma holders in psychiatry pass out every year, according to office bearers of Indian Psychiatric Society office.

“India needs to train more people, increase seats for post-graduation in psychiatry across India,” said Matcheri S Keshavan, professor at Massachusetts Mental Health Center

Neglected profession

Most psychiatrists felt their profession was neglected compared to other branches of healthcare. “With less people being trained and many doctors taking early retirements, our profession is shrinking. This has to change, with both policy changes and change in the mindset towards this field,” World Psychiatric Association president Prof Dinesh Bhugra said.

Stigma and lack of awareness on mental health

Most people affected with mental disorders avoid meeting psychiatrist in the country, the respondents said, adding that such change can be changed only with spreading more awareness and education on mental disorders.

“Like Deepika Padukone, more celebrities should come out to talk about mental ailments. This will encourage people to come forward too to seek psychiatric help,” said Dr Vaibhav Dubey, organising secretary of the ongoing conference.

Less research on traditional healing systems

There is comparatively more research on psychological disorders, their trends, other behavioural aspects but less research on the human brain, Keshavan said.

“In the West, they are working on the entire neural map of brain and what leads to various mental disorders from the perspective of brain chemistry and neural connections. Here we should conduct more research on such lines.”

India’s rich traditional healing systems such as yoga and ayurveda should be explored in the context of mental health, Prof Bhugra said. “More research should be conducted on how these traditional healing systems can help in the treatment of mental disorders,” he added.

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