Union Health Minister launched National Mental Health Policy of India

Oct 11, 2014 10:53 IST

Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on 10 October 2014 launched the National Mental Health Policy of India. It was the first ever Mental Health Policy of India which was launched on the occasion of first ever National Mental Health Day organised by the Union government.

The National Mental Health Policy has been prepared on the basis of the recommendations made by the Policy Group on Mental Health constituted by the Union Government in April 2011.

The Policy is in consonance with the intent of Resolution WHA 65.4 adopted at the 65th World Health Assembly held in Geneva in 2012 to which India also was a party. The Resolution WHA 65.4 highlights the global burden of mental disorders and the need for a comprehensive, co-ordinated response from the health and social sectors at the community level.

Vision of the Policy

The vision of the National Mental Health Policy is to promote mental health, prevent mental illness, enable recovery from mental illness, promote destigmatization and desegregation, and ensure socio-economic inclusion of persons affected by mental illness by providing accessible, affordable and quality health and social care to all persons through their life-span within a right based frame work.

Goals of the Policy

  • To reduce distress, disability, exclusion morbidity and premature mortality associated with mental health problems across life span of the person.
  • To enhance understanding of the mental health in the country
  • To strengthen the leadership in the mental health sector at the national, state and district levels.

Objectives of the Policy

  • To provide universal access to mental health care
  • To increase access to and utilisation of comprehensive mental health services by persons with mental health problems.
  • To increase access to mental health care especially to vulnerable groups including homeless persons, persons in remote areas, educationally, socially and deprived sections.
  • To reduce prevalence and impact of risk factors associated with mental health problems
  • To reduce risk and incidence of suicide and attempted suicide
  • To ensure respect for rights and protection from harm of persons with mental health problems
  • To reduce stigma associated with mental health problems
  • To enhance availability and equitable distribution of skilled human resources for mental health
  • To progressively enhance financial allocation and improve utilisation for mental health promotion and care
  • To identify and address the social, biological and psychological determinants of mental health problems and to provide appropriate interventions

Past attempt in framing a National Mental Health Policy

Earlier in 1987, effort was made to frame a national mental health policy. It resulted into the enactment of Mental Health Act, 1987. But the Act never came into force any of the States and Union territories due to a number of defects.

The Mental Health Act, 1987sought to replace earlier laws governing the mentally ill, the Indian Lunatic Asylum Act, 1858, and Indian Lunacy Act, 1912. These Acts largely ignored the human rights aspect and were concerned only with custodial issues.

Comment

According to World Health Organisation, about 20 percent of India's population would suffer from some form of mental illness by 2020. However, the country has only about 3500 psychiatrists. Therefore, the government is confronted with the problem of lowering this gap significantly over the next decade.

Further, there exists a bi-directional relationship between mental ill health and poverty which is evident in many reports, including the World Disability Report, 2010. This alerts us to what could become a health crisis with damaging consequences for society.

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