By 2025, India will lose 39.6 million years of healthy life to mental illnesses unless steps are taken to address the “vast” mental health treatment gap in the country, according to a research led by Vikram Patel, a prominent expert in the field.
Three papers published in “The Lancet” and “The Lancet Psychiatry” journals suggest that a third of the global disease for mental, neurological and substance use disorders occurs in India and China, which is more than all high-income countries combined.
Patel, a professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, who was named one of the most influential 100 individuals by Time magazine in 2015, says though India has progressive policies on mental healthcare, implementation is “patchy” and treatment gaps “very large”.
The majority of people with mental disorders in China and India do not receive treatment, according to details of the study released by the school.
The three papers are the first of publications to be released over the coming year by the China-India Mental Health Alliance, jointly coordinated by the Shanghai Mental Health Center at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China and the Public Health Foundation of India.
Less than 1% of the national healthcare budget in India and China is allocated to mental healthcare, and both have very few trained mental health professionals, poor access to mental health services (especially in rural areas) and high levels of stigma, which may prevent people from accessing services, the study says.
Besides community workers, the researchers highlight the importance of collaboration with traditional and alternative medicine specialists, such as yoga and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners.
“Innovators have shown how these gaps might be reduced, for example through task-sharing with frontline workers and engagement of the community. These are the models of care which deserve public financing for scaling up,” Patel says.
“Additionally, we must explore how alternative medicine practitioners can work in collaboration with medical doctors to improve the lives of people living with mental health problems.”