Four in Five Indians Choose Not To Cure Mental Illness?

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Four in five people suffering from severe mental ailment in India choose not to treat it which causes early death by at least 15-20 years as compared to mentally healthy people, medical experts said.

They said that among the several mental health ailments people suffer from severe depression, bipolar disorders and psychosis are the most common forms. People with mental illness die early due to smoking, obesity, heart illness, respiratory problems and cancer. Besides, they also die because they are usually ignored for routine check-ups or treatment for various problems.

“Their family members are equally responsible as they should be more responsive to needs of mentally ill people,” said Shekhar Saxena, director, department of mental health and substance abuse, World Health Organization (WHO).

Saxena was speaking at a symposium on “Mental Health: Gender, Youth and Social Justice” organised by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in collaboration with the US-based Columbia university.

According to the experts, the mental doctor-patient ratio in India is one doctor for three lakh patients. Pratap Sharan, professor in the department of psychiatry, AIIMS said that about 10 percent of India’s population suffers from a certain degree of mental illness, yet only 10 percent of them get at least one-time care.

“Mental health services are very low-resourced in India with just one percent of the total health budget being spent on it,” Sharan added. “All the policies of the government — be it for education, employment, gender issues, or poverty alleviation — must be in favour of people with mental health problems. Mental health services must be enhanced and should not be limited only to the hospitals or mental health centres. The services must be rendered at the community level too. Finally, NGOs and civil societies must come forward in addressing this problem,” Sharan said.

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