An extensive study undertaken by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) shows an urgent need to address the rising mental health incidence. The report suspected at least 150 million Indians are in need of intervention for mental health. The survey done in
12 states is the first such study in the country.
The 2015-16 survey by the Bengaluru-based National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) in 12 states, covering 34,802 people, showed that the lifetime prevalence of mental disorder is 13.7 per cent. Extrapolating the results of the 12 states to entire country would mean at least 150 million Indians are in need of intervention for mental health.
The report, however, suggested that currently only 30 million Indians have access to mental health facility. “A National Commission on Mental Health comprising professionals from mental health, public health, social sciences, the judiciary and related backgrounds should be constituted to oversee, support, facilitate, monitor and review mental health policies,” the report recommended.
The National Mental Health Survey (NMHS) showed tobacco-related disorders were responsible for 13.1 per cent of total mental disorders, followed by use of psychotropic substances (5 per cent), and alcohol use (4.6 per cent) in both the urban and rural population.
The survey was carried out in 43 districts of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Assam and Manipur between June 1, 2015 and June 1, 2016. Trained experts took door-to-door interviews of people on hand-held tablets, held group discussion at taluka levels to understand the mental health condition of each interviewee.
While India has a National Mental Health Programme since 1982, implementation was “fragmented and disorganised”, the survey observed. In several districts, the programme is yet to get implemented.
Only Gujarat and Kerala have a standalone mental health policy. The situation in urban clusters is worse than rural areas with prevalence of schizophrenia, psychoses, mood disorders and stress-related disorders two-three times higher in Metros. The report warned that with urbanisation, the burden is expected to increase. While Manipur has highest prevalence (14.1 per cent), Assam has lowest prevalence of mental disorders (5.8 per cent).
“Migration from rural to urban pockets isolates a person. They are stuck in work from Monday to Friday. Most cases that we find are of depression and allied disorders. Anxiety is increasing in urban lifestyle,” said Dr Yusuf Matcheswalla, head of Psychiatry unit at JJ hospital, the largest state-run hospital in Maharashtra.
According to B N Gangadhar, director at NIMHANS, the ongoing study will help in development of mental health systems across the states. “NIMHANS team has 125 investigators drawn from nearly 15 premier institutions pan India,” he said in the report.
The study indicated towards a worrisome trend, 22.4 per cent population in survey was habitual to some form of substance abuse — either alcohol or drugs. Age bracket of 40-59 years was most habitual of substance use disorders. Depression was found prevalent in one out of 20 people, higher in females in the age-group of 40-49 years in urban Metros. One per cent population was also found prone to suicide, even though the count is small, the study called for further research to intervene suicidal tendencies. Mental disorder in men was higher than women.
About 9.8 million children aged 13-17 are in need of medical intervention with mental disorders prevalent in 7.3 per cent population. In Himachal Pradesh, the survey found adolescents suffered from depression, anxiety and tobacco disorder in huge numbers.