Urging the Govt of Maharashtra to immediately increase funding for mental health services
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According to WHO- "Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community."
Even though there are more mental health awareness programs being conducted across Maharashtra, mental health issues are still a stigma in society. There is still a lack of treatment options available in the state, with only four government funded mental hospitals in Pune, Thane, Nagpur and Ratnagiri. On visiting one of these hospitals, my team and I realised that these hospitals do not get adequate resources to treat enough people. The government spends the minimum amount on these institutions.
In 2017-18, the Maharashtra government had allocated a meagre 0.46% of the State Domestic Product to healthcare. The Maharashtra government was spending only Rs 763 per capita on health services, while people were shelling out a whopping Rs 2684, over 3.5 times of what the government spent, from their own pockets to access health services. In Maharashtra, the largest chunk of expenses made on health services is being borne by the people themselves with very little help from the state. Less than 1% of these healthcare funds are allocated to mental health. And it's even more difficult for people to spend more money on mental health, considering that over 60% of people suffering with serious mental illnesses are economically unstable and can't afford those expenses.
There are zero rehabilitation centres in Maharashtra to help the patients get back to life after undergoing treatment. This often results in the treated patients to relapse and come back for treatment.
A doctor from KEM Hospital, Parel, said that if the state was to implement the new mental healthcare bill, it will have to increase the allocation to at least 4% of the total health budget.
There is also a lack of specialised professionals, not only in Maharashtra, but in the whole of India with 0.4 psychiatrists, 0.12 nurses, 0.07 psychologists and 0.07 social workers per 1,00,000 people. There 0.25 mental health beds per 10,000 population. Of these, the vast majority (0.20) are in mental hospitals and occupied by long-stay patients and therefore not really accessible to the general population.
The government, the state ministry of health and the ministry of human resources must realise the urgency to increased the allocation of healthcare funds towards mental health. They need to establish mental health rehabilitation centres with family wards and also allocate funds to hire more psychiatrists and psychologists. There still have to be more awareness programs because a lot of people are still unaware that there are effective treatments for most mental illnesses. The increased allocation of funds by the Maharashtra government towards mental health, along with the help of the private and NGO sectors, will considerably reduce the rate of mental illnesses as well as the stigma associated with it.
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