NEW DELHI: India accounts for 28% of global suicides but nearly half of the population is neither aware about mental health issues nor has access to a mental health facility within a 20km radius, says an independent study conducted across seven north Indian states.
About 43% of the respondents had a family member or friend with mental illness. While 48% had a person with a known addiction in their family or among friends, 59% had no de-addiction service near their house, posing a challenge to access treatment, the survey shows.
“The lack of facilities or access to care raises practical issues for care-givers facilitating treatment for persons with mental illnesses who feel there is a disconnect between the ground reality and government policies,” says Dr Sunil Mittal, senior psychiatrist & director of World Federation of Mental Health (WFMH).
The study, conducted by Cosmos Institute of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences (CIMBS) and WFMH, covered 10,233 individuals in urban and rural areas across 175 districts of UP, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal, Delhi, Uttarakhand and J&K.
According to the National Mental Health Survey (2016), lifetime prevalence of mental illness in India is estimated at 13.7% with over 150 million patients in need of active intervention. The study also points at the lack of private sector participation in creating facilities for treatment of mental illness. “Availability of facilities has been an issue, and an overwhelming 87% individuals favoured use of technology to try to bridge this divide by using mobile phones, apps and tele-medicine,” says Srishti Jaju of CIMBS.
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Web platforms claim patients are increasingly seeking online consultation for mental illness. For instance, Practo’s Online Consult has registered an 88% growth in psychiatric queries since last year.
Besides, cost of treatment appeared to be a significant deterrent in accessing care as 80% of the patients have no health insurance or thought mental health treatment was not covered. Only 8% were aware that health insurance covered such a disorder. The study also showed that 28% did not consider suicide to be associated with mental illness and therefore did not seek intervention.
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