Mental Healthcare Workforce is Limited and Often Lacks
the Infrastructure and Resources to Sustain and
Grow in India
India struggles with a staggering 50% to 70% treatment gap in the area of mental health according to the reports of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. This means that more than half the people having a mental health issue never find the right treatment that ensures their emotional and mental well-being.
Nikhat is 45 years old and has been married for 12 years. He feels that he has never been a happy person. While in college he had suicidal thoughts and told his parents about it. He was made to feel weak as his parents asked him to be stronger and that was not how they had raised him. He eventually went himself to a government hospital at the age of 19 where he was referred to a psychiatrist who had a time limitation as there were at least a 100 in que and he seemed the only doctor. Despite his best ability he could spare only five minutes, scribbled his prescription and wrote the diagnosis “severe depression”. Nikhat broke down looking at the final verdict right on his face. The doctor did tell him that he needn’t worry and he would be fine soon…..that just didn’t seem enough. Nikhat has been struggling for 16 years now. He gets into treatment, either it’s hard for him to afford it or cannot afford to follow it up as leaves at work are never easy. He feels that if he had found help easier he would have not languishing with emotional distress. He now takes help from a Counselor for the past 3 years at iwill by ePsyclinic.
One of the primary reasons for such a gap is the lack of awareness and the taboos attached with having a mental health issue. People feel it is an internal weakness to feel emotional distress and give their best to hide it. It’s only when it seems beyond them that they think of seeking help. This also indicates that mental health issues are on a complete back burner. One is more likely to go and seek medication a physical ailment but absolutely closed to the idea of seek help for mental health issues.
Many a times mental health workers struggle with the lack of resources and infrastructure. They do not have access to psychiatric drugs or lack an in patient facility which is absolutely essential. Despite having 4.5% (56 million) Indians suffering from Depression and 3% (38 million) Indians suffering from anxiety, the union budget only allocates 0.16% to mental health. This only goes to show the neglect that mental wellness receives.
There are limited institutions that train mental health professionals. Statistics show that there is only 1 psychiatrist to a population of 1 million in India. Quality training means a good institute and the seats are very limited. Despite health care workers wanting to get into the field of mental health that are very limited avenues.
Mental wellness has been identified by the world bank as a Global Development Priority. It underlines the importance of mental health as a priority in economic development. Unless we make recognise the impact of mental health and the importance of metal well being it will interfere with all aspects of growth as a nation. Depression is seen to a an epidemic which takes more lives than any natural calamity. Unless we take drastic steps to contain the epidemic in terms of a social support, easy access to mental health professionals and more programs to enhance awareness, we may stagnate any growth that we
About the Author
Nayamat Bawa is Head Psychologist at IWill Therapy App