“We recognize that mental health is a neglected area where awareness is low even among the health professionals. In recent years, we have given a lot of attention to the issue of mental health in India and have increased the allocation of resources for the programme more than 6 times for our current five year plan.” With these words, Hon’ble Minister of Health & Family Welfare Sh. Ghulam Nabi Azad today declared open the 3-day International Conference Cum Workshop of the Asia Pacific Community Mental Health Development Project. The Minister noted that unfortunately there is still stigma attached towards persons with mental illness and epilepsy within the society. Public education and efforts to change the attitude of general population towards persons with mental illness and epilepsy need to be carried out, Sh. Azad said. He also highlighted that early identification and intervention can contribute to effective treatment. He added that the joint family system in our country proves to be supportive to the persons with severe mental illness. “One hopes that with progress, development and modernization, we do not lose our traditional social customs, values and life styles as these have proved to be positive.” He also added that treatment of severe mental illness is incomplete without effective care, rehabilitation and reintegration of recovering mentally ill person into the society. Social and culturally acceptable and affordable rehabilitation measures need to be developed and implemented, Sh. Azad added.
Considering the available evidence that 6 to 7% of population in India suffers from common mental disorders and 1-2 % of population suffers from severe mental disorders and the fact that globally it is estimated that the burden of mental disorders will increase to 15% by 2020, Sh. Azad noted that there is need to develop multinational partnerships to address this problem. The Minister thus hoped that scientific deliberations from international and national mental health leaders at this 3 day conference will help in developing a stronger network and innovative solutions for community mental health development. The Minister informed that the National Mental Health Programme was launched in 1996 on a pilot basis in 4 districts. Today the programme covers 123 districts under the District Mental Health Programme (DMHP). The Minister informed that DMHP has been expanded to include the up gradation of Psychiatry departments of Government Medical Colleges, General Hospitals and modernisation of State run Mental Hospitals. 89 psychiatry departments have been upgraded and 29 mental hospitals modernized. “Recognizing that one of the major constraints in implementing the National Mental Health Programme, remains the provision of adequate manpower, whether it is doctors, specialists, nurses, paramedics or other health professionals, we have invested in the creation of mental health professionals”, Shri Azad said.
He also added that the National mental Health Programme has two components for manpower development. Under the first component, we are developing 11 Institutions across the country as centres of excellence in Mental Health. These 11 institutions will add 44 psychiatrists, 176 clinical psychologists, 176 psychiatric social workers and 220 psychiatric nurses annually. Under the second component, we propose to support states to start Post Graduate courses in Mental Health and other Institutions, including provision of basic infrastructure and faculty. These institutions will add 60 psychiatrists, 240 clinical psychologists, 240 psychiatric social workers and 600 psychiatric nurses annually. Together, these two schemes would help us to produce 1756 qualified mental health professional annually and enable us to bridge the gap between our requirement and the availability of mental health professions.
Sh. Azad noted that role of National Institute of Mental Health & Neurosciences Bangalore in taking up the National Mental Health Programme and the District Mental Health Programme has been significant. He also added that recent research on the use of Yoga in the severe mental illness as well as stress related mental disorders at National Institute of Mental Health & Neurosciences also appreciated. These have a scope in the community level also.
Speaking on the occasion Secretary Health & Family Welfare Sh. K.Chandramouli reiterated that global solutions to the mental health issues are required as mental health problems are still poorly understood. He said already many countries are part of the Asia Pacific network, yet there is need for developing partnerships and advocacy measures. The Secretary informed that Government is making efforts to expand the District Mental Health Programme from the current 123 districts to cover all 650 districts.
According to WHO data, the Asia Pacific region has close to half of the approximately 450 million people affected by mental illness globally. Mental disorders such as schizophrenia, mood disorders, substance abuse and dementia contribute more to global disease burden than cancer or cardiovascular disease. WHO has projected that by the year 2030 mental disorders will be one of the leading causes of the global disease burden.
Asia Pacific Community Mental Health Development Project (APCMHD) has evolved over past three years with an objective to develop the community mental health services in the Asia Pacific region by developing and sharing the best practices of community mental health. The project has been initiated in collaboration with the WHO Western Pacific Regional Office (WHO WPRO) and is managed by Asia Australia Mental Health, a joint consortium of the University of Melbourne and St. Vincent’s Health in association with WHO collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Mental Health (Melbourne). The project is a network of mental health leaders, professionals and researchers from 17 countries of the Asia Pacific region, which include Australia, Cambodia, China, Pacific Islands, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
The three day conference with theme – “Building Partnership in Community mental Health” is aimed at developing a set of common principles of partnerships in community mental health, while also highlighting best practice examples of these partnerships across the network countries. The objectives of this International Conference-cum-Workshop are to promote and advocate the development of community mental health in India and the Asia Pacific region; to share knowledge and insight about best practice partnerships in community mental health in each of the network countries and to develop a consensus statement about the principles for the development of community mental health partnerships.