Why India needs to invest more on mental health

a person sitting in front of a window: Pharma wrap: Why India needs to invest more on mental health

© Viswanath Pilla
Pharma wrap: Why India needs to invest more on mental health

The year 2020 has been a difficult year for mental health. The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified people’s fears of infection, social isolation and economic hardships.

This past week the World Health Organisation (WHO) has published a report of a survey of 130 countries during the period June-August 2020 providing information about the extent of disruption to mental, neurological and substance use services due to COVID-19.

The WHO report says that there are direct and indirect consequences of COVID-19 on mental health conditions, leading to increased demand for services.

In addition, health systems around the world are challenged, leading to the disruption of delivery of essential services, especially for the most vulnerable populations.

The report says the major stressors such as the Covid-19 represent risk factors for the development, exacerbation and relapse of a range of mental health disorders.

Furthermore, COVID-19 itself is associated with neurological and mental complications, such as delirium/encephalopathy, agitation, stroke, insomnia, loss of sense of taste and smell, anxiety, depression and Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Pre-existing mental and neuro disorders increase the risk of becoming severely ill or of death, or of having long-term complications due to COVID-19. For example, people with dementia have a higher susceptibility to COVID-19 and higher rates of death associated with the disease.

There may be long-term mental or neurological consequences following Covid-19 infection, thus necessitating follow-up of patients and

further research in this area.

Please read Moneycontrol’s three part series on mental health here, here and here.

High disease burden, low public spend

An Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) survey found out that nearly 19.7 crore people or one in seven persons suffered from some form of mental disorder, including depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, idiopathic developmental intellectual disability, conduct disorders and autism.

India’s spend on health to its GDP is one of the lowest at 1.28 percent in FY18. The spending on the mental health component is only 0.05 percent of its health budget, lower than even the average spending of many low-income countries, which comes to about 0.5 percent.

The investment on mental health services is not only limited, but it is also characterized by a lack of resources and services and a large treatment gap.

There is dire need for the states and Central government to step up investment on mental healthcare.

If you or someone you know needs help for mental health issues, call any of these helplines: NIMHANS toll-free number 0804611000, Mpower and BMC joint helpline 1800-120-820050, Vandrevala Foundation 1860-2662-345 or Aasra 9820466726

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