Around 22 lakh people in Punjab are expected to be suffering from mental illness out of which only 20 per cent are getting treated, stated the report of a National Mental Health Survey that was conducted last year in the state. In the report released on Friday, it was stated that around 3 lakh people (above age of 18) are suffering from depression in the state. It also revealed that high rates of mental disorders were found among people above 60 years. Doctors said the survey was conducted by the department of psychiatry, Government Medical College & Hospital (GMCH) in Chandigarh, in collaboration with the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, between August 2015 and April 2016. Punjab was among the 12 states in the country where the survey was conducted simultaneously.
The doctors said four Punjab districts – Faridkot, Ludhiana, Moga and Patiala – were chosen for the survey in which 2,895 people were randomly selected and interviewed.
Dr B S Chavan, head of department of psychiatry, GMCH, and also the principal investigator of the survey said: “After getting the results from the four districts, our projected figures indicated that out of the total population in the state, 21.9 lakh patients (above 18 years) are suffering from mental illness. The aim of the survey was to get an estimate prevalence and burden of mental and neurological disorders in the state.”
Asked why the number of people having access to treatment is less, Chavan said: “Maybe people don’t want to get treated because of the social stigma attached to mental illness.”
During the survey, the doctors said the prevalence of alcohol and substance use disorders in the state were found to be 7.9 per cent and 2.48 per cent, respectively. “The projected number who are regularly taking hard drugs (opium and heroin) in the state turned out to be approximately 4 lakh,” said Chavan.
The survey also pointed out shortage of mental health professionals. “There is an acute shortage of mental health professionals (there are just 12 clinical psychologists, 32 psychiatry social workers and four nurses who are trained in mental health),” stated the report.
The study also revealed that the population in the villages has high prevalence of mental disorders than their urban counterpart. Those who were part of the survey has now given recommendations to the Punjab government to improve the situation.
”The district mental health programme should be extended to all the districts in the state. The Punjab government should earmark separate budget for mental health within its health budget. At least 5 per cent of it should be kept for mental health,” said Chavan.