Despite its high-pressure life, Mumbai is facing severe shortage of psychiatrists.
With a population of more than a crore, the city has only 400 trained psychiatrists registered with the Bombay Psychiatrists’ Association.
The Association has on its rolls another 350 mental health workers which include psychologists and counsellors, who are not doctors. They conduct counselling sessions but cannot prescribe medication.
“There is a severe dearth of psychiatrists not only in Mumbai but across India,” said Dr Harish Shetty, a senior psychiatrist.
The shortage of psychiatrists is alarming in the wake of the World Health Organisation predicting depression to be the second largest disease by 2015.
While in Mumbai, one psychiatrist has to cater to approximately 2.25 lakh people, the United States has 17 psychiatrists per lakh population, informed Dr Meera Narasimhan, Vice Chairman Research and Scientific Initiatives, University of South Carolina School of Medicine.
“With growing urbanisation and major lifestyle disorders the demand for psychiatrists is bound to go up,” said Dr Yusuf Matcheswala, a senior psychiatrist with JJ Hospital and former President of Bombay Psychiatrists Association. In the past decade, Matcheswala has seen a 15 to 20 per cent rise in the number of new patients every week.
The reasons for the shortfall in the number of psychiatrists are varied. Brain drain is one of the most prominent problems.
“More Indian psychiatrists are found outside India,” said Dr Anjali Chhabaria, who runs a private clinic at Juhu. “Last year I trained four psychiatrists of whom three went abroad soon after the course was over,” said Dr Shubhangi Parker, head of psychiatry department at KEM Hospital.
Also, the numbers of seats available to study psychiatry in city medical colleges are only four to six. This is because there aren’t enough senior psychiatrists in the city to teach the subject. In 1985, when Matcheswala had joined JJ Hospital, he recalled there were eight psychiatry teachers in the department.
“Today, the hospital has only four faculty members in the psychiatry department,” he said.