Amid rise in suicides, BMC docs trained to identify mental health issues | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times

Amid rise in suicides, BMC docs trained to identify mental health issues

Mar 28, 2023 12:42 AM IST

Mumbai: The city’s civic dispensaries are set to implement a new mental health initiative in April

Mumbai: The city’s civic dispensaries are set to implement a new mental health initiative in April. Around 350 doctors attached to the public health department of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) have undergone a month-long training to identify signs of mental health issues in patients and provide the necessary help.

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Dr Daksha Shah, joint executive health officer of BMC, highlighted the need for such an initiative and said, “The incidence of suicides is increasing in the city, the stress of exams among children is well-known and there are many interpersonal stressors that people need help with.”

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The BMC’s initiative, which will be rolled out in 191 civic dispensaries, will be part of the state government’s District Mental Health Programme under the National Health Mission.

The training involved one online module conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS), in addition to modules conducted by state health officials and psychiatrists from BMC’s superspecialty hospitals.

To further assist patients, BMC has appointed two psychiatrists who will help implement the mental health programme. Referring patients who need further help or psychiatric intervention to its tertiary care hospitals such as KEM Hospital-Parel, LTMG Sion Hospital, BYL Nair Hospital- Mumbai Central, and RN Cooper Hospital-Vile Parle is also part of the programme’s plan.

“The idea is to pick up symptoms of mental health in a patient and refer them to the psychiatrist. We have trained the doctors for the same to ask pertinent questions. We will also put up boards and banners about the state government’s Tele-Manas helpline at all dispensaries and health posts,” said Dr Mangala Gomare, executive health officer, BMC.

The state government’s toll-free mental health helpline ‘Tele-MANAS’ has received over 800 calls asking for help ever since it was launched in November 2022. Lack of sleep, loneliness, general sadness, stress and anxiety contributed to the majority of the complaints that counsellors received over the last three months.

Dr Avinash Desousa, an ex-president of the Bombay Psychiatric Society (BPS), said while there is an epidemic of mental health cases post-Covid-19 pandemic due to multiple factors including financial instability, there is a shortage of mental health professionals to deal with the growing numbers.

“An initiative like this will be beneficial as we need people at the grassroot level; family physicians and other doctors to know how to detect mental health issues. It is observed that close to 50% of patients with psychiatric issues go to their family physicians first and then get referred to psychiatrists. This initiative will help in better detection. Patients will get timely treatment and help bring down the stigma attached to mental health,” he added.

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