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According to the World Health Organization, there are seven crore people in India who suffer from mental illnesses.

Nearly 1 in 40 and 1 in 20 persons suffer from past and current depression in India, respectively and nearly 50 per cent of persons with major depressive disorders reported difficulties in carrying out their daily activities.

While replying to a question in the Lok Sabha, Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, revealed, “As per available information, there are 43 Government Mental Health Hospitals in the country, including 40 state-run hospitals and three central mental health hospitals.”

There are barriers that exist, with patients having to travel long distances to access psychiatric treatment at any of the 43 large district mental hospitals. A majority of the limited number of trained medical professionals are clustered in urban area.

While speaking to My Medical Mantra, Dr Ashish Deshpande, Former President, Bombay Psychiatrist Society, said, “The number of people who are suffering from mental illness in increasing every day. But, as compared to the rising numbers, hospital which caters to patients with mental illness are very few. The government should increase the number of hospitals. There is not much awareness about mental illness in rural areas. Hospitals are also located in urban areas. We need to increase hospitals as well as mental health experts in the country.”

Even though the District Mental Health Programme (DMHP) has managed to cover over half the districts across India, and most medical colleges and district hospitals now have psychiatric wards, there still exists an overwhelming gap of 70 per cent in treatment.

In December 2017, President Ram Nath Kovind stated that the country is reeling under the issue of serious mental health epidemic by pointing at the lack of mental health interventions in the country.

Dr Rahul Bhatambre, a Psychiatrist, attached to Mumbai’s TB hospital, “Currently, in Maharashtra, here are four dedicated hospitals for patients suffering from a mental health condition. The government must increase the number of hospitals that will cater to patients suffering from mental illness. Looking at the current scenario the number of hospitals dedicated to mental health patients should be tripled, the number of patients. Each and every district should have 2-3 hospitals to treat patients with mental illness.”

Some relevant facts about mental health in India

  • Prevalence of mental illness, such as mood disorders, is higher among males (13.9%) as compared to females (7.5%)
  • 22.4% of the population above 18 years suffers from substance use disorder, majorly tobacco and alcohol
  • Alcohol use is found to be higher in males (9%) as against females (0.5%)
  • Nearly 1% of the population reports high suicidal tendencies
  • Prevalence of mental illness among teenagers (13 to 17 years) is 7.3% with the most common being depression
  • The treatment gap for mental disorders range between 70% and 92% across different disorders
  • 150 million people in India are affected by mental illness but only 10-12% of these individuals will seek help
  • Suicide is the leading cause of death among those aged 15–29 in India
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