NGOs working to support Mental Health Infrastructure in India
Mental health for decades has been low under priorities for health by policymakers at the state and central levels and the quality and quantity of mental health services well mirrored this in India. The needs of clients and families have far outstripped the availability and accessibility of services. This India’s scarce mental health resources, such as specialists in mental health, who are largely in some states (mainly in the south) and in urban areas and a large amount of population are solely under the private sector. More than half of all the inpatient beds are in 40 odd mental hospitals, most of which were from colonial times. So, given this, it is not as surprising to hear that there is a ‘treatment gap’ for mental disorders. Largely spread over the country, but especially in rural, northern, and north-eastern states and those who the socially disadvantaged.
The Government or public sectors are still the primary care providers to these populations, and therefore there is a need to strengthen these already established lines. In, the last two decades, the NGO movement has seen a steady upswing to fill these enormous gaps. NGOs are driven by their passion and having a certain cause and backed by commitment. Though their work cannot resemble the work by public agencies; but the quality of care and efforts put in to reach out to various stakeholders, discriminated people such as persons with mental disorders, give them a distinct advantage. NGOs have played a crucial role in creating awareness, facilitating health and educational activities in India. Many of the NGOs arose in response to major disasters and crises with an aim of providing emergency services and rehabilitation. The widened gap in getting help for mental health, caused by the paucity of treatment facilities, and psychiatrists in the government sector. The NGOs have been playing a significant role for the past few decades is not only helping bridge this gap but also by creating low-cost replaceable models for care. Ankita, a working woman who got assistance from an NGO Sanjeevani Society which has been functioning since 1976, providing counseling sessions; she says, changing societies, beginning a new life, triggering anxiety and panic attacks in her. Which the reasons were unknown till she took professional help and understood how deep-rooted her thoughts and actions were. Similar to this NGO, there are many such NGOs who play a significant role in strengthening the crumbling mental health infrastructure.
In finding out the reasons behind this treatment gap, one of the prime reasons is the lack of spending on public healthcare. The 2021-22 Union Budget, proposing a corpus amount of Rs 71,269 crore to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare which included a budget for mental healthcare of 597 crores. Only 7 percent of the entire budget going to the National Mental Health Programme (NMHP), which is shocking. In global spending, less than 2 percent of national health budgets are being allotted to mental health and they are still struggling to meet their populations’ needs. Revealing that around 80 percent of people with mental illnesses are from low-income countries, out of which only 75 percent receive no treatment. Overburdened health care system and with less spending, the private sector has established a monopoly in the healthcare sector. To bridge this gap of unaffordability, all providers of healthcare, either private or public, should find a way out. For example, utilizing available resources like telemedicine; which reducing cost and improves outreach to a significant level. Also, the need for primary intervention helplines, and school-level mental health education in bridging this gap.