India struggling to integrate mentally ill into society

Pallab Maulik
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Kolkata– A mental health integration index for the Asia-Pacific region has ranked India a low 11th among 15 listed countries for their commitment to integrating people with mental illness into the respective communities.

According to the Asia-Pacific Mental Health Integration Index the countries of the region struggle to integrate the mentally ill into the society, said the study undertaken by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

The index listed 15 countries from the region and ranked them based on scores obtained for governance, environment, opportunities and access to treatment.

India figured in the lower half for each of the indices, while Australia and New Zealand figured at the top — Pakistan and Indonesia came at the bottom.

Overall, India scored 29.4 points, just behind China and Thailand, while Pakistan scored a low 12.8.

The report stressed that mental illness places a huge health and economic burden on Asia-Pacific countries.

Pallab Maulik
Pallab Maulik

“On average, it causes more than one-fifth of Years Lost due to Disability (YLDs) in the 15 index countries and 9.3 per cent of disability adjusted life years (DALYs — a joint measure of YLDs and early deaths,” the report said.

It highlighted that “between now and 2030 it will reduce economic growth in India and China by $11 trillion. In Australia and New Zealand, it currently knocks 3.5 per cent and 5 per cent, respectively, off the gross domestic product (GDP).”

Too few are being treated, stated the report.

In countries, such as Australia and Singapore, under half of those with a mental illness receive medical care, while only one-tenth get so in India and China.

The research was commissioned and funded by Janssen Asia Pacific.

The report also stated that within months of India adopting its new Mental Health Policy “its total health budget was slashed by 20 per cent”.

Worse still, “lack of institutional capacity meant that even the restricted funding available, was not always spent,” it said.

In India in 2012-2013, “only 42 per cent of the budget for the National Mental Health Programme was used,” the report said.

George Institute for Global Health India’s Deputy Director and Head of Research and Development, Pallab Maulik, who was one of the advisors on the study, said, “There are important lessons for all countries included in the project,” adding, “there is scope for improvement.

Maulik is involved in the institute’s SMART Mental Health initiative that addresses the ‘access to treatment’ component.

“Models of community-based care involving technology and appropriate training of primary care health workers can help put the focus on mental health in rural areas, increasing screening, and facilitating mental health care,” Maulik said. (IANS)



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