Is India finally waking up to mental illness?

Ignorance, stigma and lack of doctors have long marred mental healthcare in India. But with stressful lifestyles and ever increasing cases of depression, this much neglected segment is now gaining importance in the country`s medical scenario.

According to an estimate by the World Health Organisation (WHO), depression will become the second largest illness in terms of morbidity in another decade. It already affects one out of every five women and one in every 12 men.

`Social awakening towards mental diseases and their cure has finally started to come,` said Anindita Paul, director of Sanjivini Society for Mental Health.

`In terms of the urban society, there is lot of awakening which is coming now. Still as a country a lot more needs to be done,` says Paul.

Globally, mental disorders account for 13 percent of the burden of diseases. In India, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the prevalence of schizophrenia, a severe mental disorder, is prevalent among 1.1 percent of the total population while the overall lifetime prevalence rate of mental disorders is 10-12 percent.

While the government has a separate programme for mental health, the segment is marred by lack of adequate doctors and infrastructure.

According to latest figures provided by the health ministry, India has a mere 4,500 psychiatrists.

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) member P.C. Sharma says lack of proper care for mental patients is a major cause of concern.

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`In today`s world, everyone is living under constant stress. Still we have just 40 major mental health institutes,` said Sharma.

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