India needs better mental health care systems
Bollywood Sushant Singh Rajput died by suicide in Mumbai on Sunday. His tragic death has trigged a much-needed conversation on mental health in India. According to the World Health Organization, over 90 million Indians, or 7.5% of the population, suffer from mental health issues. A study published in The Lancet in December 2019, titled The burden of mental disorders across the states of India: the Global Burden of Disease Study 1990–2017, also highlights the scale of the challenge. Mental health issues are among the leading causes of non-fatal disease burden in India; one of every seven Indian was affected by mental health issues in 2017; the proportional contribution of mental health to the total disease burden has almost doubled since 1990; and suicide was the leading cause of deaths among young people — aged 15 to 39 — in 2016.
India spends little on mental health care. In financial year (FY) 2019, the budget allocated to the National Mental Health Programme (NMHP) was brought down to ₹40 crore from ₹50 crore in FY18. Budget 2020 has not increased the allocation for NMHP. When it comes to mental health care personnel, India has 9,000 psychiatrists, or one doctor for every 100,000 people, when WHO norms say there should be three for every 100,000 people. While these structural and financial lacunae need to be addressed, it is important for society to not stigmatise the victims, and provide a community support structure so that they don’t battle such problems alone. As the reportage on Rajput’s death showed, the media, especially television, needs to be responsible, considerate and humane about the way it covers deaths due to mental health issues.