HC bats for the establishment of more mental health institutes

By Legal Correspondent

When the World Health Organization (WHO) states that India is the most depressed country, it is the duty of the Centre, along with the State governments, to have a comprehensive coordinated action plan to identify patients with mental illness and give them appropriate treatment by conducting periodical surveys, the Madras High Court has said.

Justices N. Kirubakaran and B. Pugalendhi made the observations while disposing of a public interest litigation petition which insisted on establishing a mental healthcare facility either at the central prison in Madurai or Tiruchi to treat prisoners. Passing orders in the case, the judges expressed shock over WHO’s report that over 90 million Indians were suffering from mental illness.

Though all psychological problems were preventable and curable, the prevalence of mental illness had doubled in the last 10 years due to a lack of awareness or knowledge about the illness, inadequate psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and nurses, insufficient treatment facilities, high cost of treatment, long-distance travel to get treated and the stigma attached to the illnesses, the court said.

Expressing concern about the negligible amount of money being spent by the government on the mental health front, the court insisted upon creating psychiatry departments in all medical colleges, churning out more psychiatrists every year and establishing psychiatry departments in every taluk headquarters hospital so that the citizens are able to take treatment without much ado.

The Division Bench also impressed upon the need to establish more institutions, such as National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), across the country. The judges felt that only 47 government-run mental health hospitals would not be sufficient for a country with a population of 136 crore. They also insisted on popularising insurance coverage for mental illness.

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