[Editorial Analysis] Towards a stronger mental health strategy

Mains Paper 2: Health
Prelims level: World Health Organization
Mains level: Health and associated issues and impact


• According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is a 10-25-year life expectancy reduction in patients with severe mental disorders.
• Mental health issues are a major health challenge in the world today.
• India introduced the National Mental Health Policy (NMHP) in 2014, and a rights-based Mental Healthcare Act in 2017, which replaced the Mental Healthcare Act of 1987.
• The NMHP, National Health Mission, National Adolescent Health Programme, and Ayushman Bharat have the necessary components to address the mental health issues of all sections.
• But more needs to be done in the context of pandemic, which has exacerbated mental illnesses everywhere.

Mental health indicators:

• Studies in The Lancet Public Health (2019) revealed that median mental health spending across the world was around 2% of the total government health expenditure in 2015.
• In low-income countries, it was around 0.5% of their health budget; for lower-middle-income countries, it was 1.9%; for upper-middle-income countries, 2.4%; and for high-income countries, 5.1%
• Government expenditure on hospitals dealing with mental health issues as a percentage of total government expenditure on mental health is 1.3% in India; in developed countries, it ranges from 3% to 15%.
• In India, the share of mental hospitals per 1,00,000 population is as low as 0.01 in line with developing countries, according to the WHO.
• This may possibly be due to the lack of focussed attention given to mental health compared to other major diseases in India.
• India was also at the 64th position in the distribution of mental health day treatment facilities (per 1,00,000 population).
• Residential mental health services, particularly community ones, are an important component for good quality mental health care.
• Research also shows that long-term patients with mental health issues are usually admitted to residential facilities.
• The people working in the mental health sector help us understand mental health issues better. Here, India was ranked 107 with 0.292 per 1,00,000 population.

Mental illnesses:

• Mental illnesses include anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders, mood disorders, substance use disorders, personality disorders and eating disorders.
• The majority of suicides in the world are related to psychiatric problems or to the illnesses listed above. Death by suicide is a complex phenomenon and not fully reported.
• Mental health may not be the primary concern in developing economies like India as there may be other communicable and non-communicable diseases which may be more prevalent.
• There are also challenges regarding funding, delivery of mental health packages, lack of trained staff, etc.
• Recent reports published in Lancet revealed that one in seven people in India had a mental disorder ranging from mild to severe in 2017.
• Mental disorders include depressive and anxiety disorders, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
• This situation was generally worse in the southern States compared to the northern States due to the nature of development, modernisation, urbanisation and other factors not understood yet.
• Depressive disorders were more prevalent among females than males which could be due to sexual abuse, gender discrimination, stress due to antenatal and postnatal issues and other reasons.

Additional measures:

• To address mental health issues, India could:
1. reduce the treatment gap for mental disorders,
2. increase the number of personnel in the mental health sector,
3. work towards reducing discriminatory attitudes, and
4. devise an integrated approach for detecting, treating, and managing patient needs.
5. More counselling facilities, especially in rural areas, with special support for women
6. More telemedicine, telephone-based helpline numbers, and mental health apps could help.
7. Communities have an important role in this regard and so do community-based programmes. School-based programmes on mental health can improve the mental health of children.
8. More fund allocation for treatment of mental health, especially to those States in need of funds, could do wonders.
9. Explore various policy options including creating online mental health awareness.


• There needs to be a road map for mental health awareness. This should include the traditional media, government programmes, the education system, industry, and social media.
• Media awareness and government involvement is already happening in India but both can improve.
• It is high time that industry and private sector companies set up counselling facilities. The application of big data and crowd sourcing ideas may help us in informed decision-making.


Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the Central Vista Avenue Redevelopment Project, consider the following statements:
1. The Central Vista is a 3 km stretch in the heart of New Delhi that runs from the Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate.
2. A common Central secretariat will be constructed for all ministries that are currently spread over many buildings across Delhi.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
Answer: C

Mains Questions:

Q.1) In India, how serious is the mental health problem? Take a look. Is this problem exacerbated by social stereotypes and prejudices? Examine

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