Society and mental health

150 million Indians have mental health problems

The National Mental Health Survey 2016 stresses the urgent need to bridge treatment gap

White Swan Foundation

10.6 percent of the Indian population suffers from mental health problems, says the National Mental Health Survey, 2016 released by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Science (NIMHANS). The survey, conducted in twelve states across a sample size of 40,000 individuals above the age of eighteen throws light on the prevalence of Common Mental Disorders( CMD) like depression and anxiety, Serious Mental Disorders (SMD) like schizophrenia, alcohol and substance abuse issues and also on the suicide risk in the country.

As per the survey, 5% of the populations needs immediate treatment for alcohol dependency and numbers go up to 10% for men with alcohol dependency. The ratio of prevalence of CMDs to SMDs  which is 1:10, marks the urgent need for large scale and early intervention for common mental disorders like depression and anxiety, phobias and personality disorders. Coupled with this startling number is the large treatment gap. The survey found that less than 25% of those with mental health issues receive treatment. “There is a poor understanding of mental illness in our country. This in turn leads to delay in access to healthcare,” said Dr Vivek Benegal, professor of psychiatry, NIMHANS. The survey has put together a list of recommendations on how the treatment gap can be bridged.  Dr B N Gangadhar, director and vice-chancellor of NIMHANS urged the media to increase awareness by emphasizing that treatment is available and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness by normalizing the experience of mental illness. Treatment of mental illnesses need not only be the responsibility of psychiatrists. Some common mental illnesses can be detected and even treated at PHCs ( Public Health Centres),” added Dr BN Gangadhar. 

The survey also points at a higher mental morbidity, upto three time higher, in urban metros. While it speculates that higher stress and living conditions may contribute to these numbers, no definite cause is known. "Disability associated with mental illness pulls down the working capacity of significant percentage of the population. This certainly doesn't aid the development agenda of the Government", said Dr B N Gangadhar further stressing on the need for an efficient mental health policy. 

White Swan Foundation