To begin with, there’s undeniable lack of mental health awareness in this country. And then, those few who are brave and smart enough to seek professionals do not even find them. The general public has little to no access to mental health care. To put it all down in approximate numbers, there are 15 crore people who need mental health care attention in India. Out of these 15 crores, only 3 crore people actually seek professional help. But the irony is that we do not have enough professionals, especially psychiatrists, to attend even those 3 crore people. As per the latest data, there are only about 7000-8000 mental health care professionals in India. By simple maths, it means we have 1 professional for every 20,000 potential patients. WHAT!!!???
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There are two identifiable reasons behind this deficiency, one is education and the other is migration.
There are very less seats in medical colleges for post graduate education in Psychiatry. Additionally, there is minimal scope of pursuing a super specialization. The courses at undergraduate level are also far from impressive. The graduation and post-graduation course in psychology are being offered by various colleges in India but only VERY few of them impart the knowledge and experience it takes to become a reliable clinical psychologist or even a counsellor.
You’d be surprised to know that UK and US has more Indian psychiatrists than India. That sounds funny but let me tell you, it is really problematic. It means that mental healthcare professionals do not feel valued enough to stay in their country and practice their expertise. They move abroad in search for better opportunities with much better pay.
India URGENTLY needs more mental health professionals. And I am not exaggerating when I say it is an EMERGENCY. It is not just the government that needs to change its approach but we too have to change our perception. It is high time we break the taboo and normalize mental health care. Only then, can we make space for more professionals around us.
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The number of suicides across all age groups has been rising since forever. We often end up saying things like, “I wish they had found help”. But hi? The help you are talking about barely exists. At least not in this country.
Currently India spends around 0.06 per cent of its health budget on mental health. Guess what? This is even less than what Bangladesh (0.44 per cent) spends on mental health. What will it take for the Indian State to take this issue seriously? Are they waiting for a “depression or stress epidemic” of some sort? Because, if they are, they can keep waiting. There won’t be an epidemic. I’m sorry to say this but India and its people will die a slow, very slow death.