At least 60 million Indians – a number greater than the population of South Africa – suffer from mental disorders, even as the country lags the world in medical professionals and spending on mental-health issues.
Nearly 10 million-20 million Indians (1%-2% of the population) suffered from severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and nearly 50 million (5% of the population) suffered from common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety at the end of 2005, Health and Family Welfare Minister JP Nadda informed the Lok Sabha in May 2016, quoting data from the National Commission on Macroeconomics and Health, 2005, the last report available.
India spends 0.06% of its health budget on mental healthcare. This is less than Bangladesh (0.44%). Most developed nations spend above 4% of their budgets on mental-health research, infrastructure, frameworks and talent pool, according to this 2011 World Health Organisation report.
While the Central government does not maintain any data set on mental patients since health is a state subject, it does have data on patients in three Central institutions:
Another data set that captures the level of mental illness is the suicides that result.
While suicides caused by insanity declined from 7% in 2010 to 5.4% in 2014, more than 7,000 people killed themselves as a result of mental disorders.
The government has commissioned a national mental health survey through the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences, Bengaluru, to estimate the number of mental patients and utilisation patterns of mental health services.
Started on June 1, 2015, the study interviewed 27,000 respondents by April 5, 2016, according to a reply in the Lok Sabha from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
India is short of health professionals to address mental issues, particularly at the district and sub-district level.
There are 3,800 psychiatrists, 898 clinical psychologists, 850 psychiatric social workers and 1,500 psychiatric nurses nationwide, according to a reply by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in the Lok Sabha in December 2015.
By this estimate, India is short of 66,200 psychiatrists.
Similarly, based on the global average of 21.7 psychiatric nurses per 100,000 people, India needs 269,750 nurses.
The Mental Health Care Bill, 2013, which provides for the protection and promotion of the rights of persons with mental illness during the delivery of healthcare in institutions and in the community, was passed unanimously by a voice vote in the Rajya Sabha on August 8, 2016.
The new Bill has increased funding to centres of excellence in mental health, from Rs 30 crore to Rs 33.70 crore per centre.
As many as 15 centres of excellence in mental health and 35 post-graduate training departments in mental health specialties have been funded to address the shortage of mental health professionals nationwide.
This article first appeared on Indiaspend, a data-driven and public-interest journalism non-profit.