mental health

The reference

mental health: According to a recent report released by the World Health Organization (WHO), around 7.5 percent of Indians suffer from some form of mental disorder. Also, according to WHO estimates, by the year 2020, about 20 percent of India’s population will suffer from mental illnesses. Despite such a large number of mental patients, till now it has not been recognized as a disease in India, even today mental health is completely neglected here and it is considered imaginary. Whereas the truth is that just as physical diseases can be harmful to us, similarly mental diseases can also adversely affect our health.

How is mental health defined?

  • Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects our ability to think, understand, feel and act.
  • Significantly, the World Health Organization (WHO) includes physical health as well as mental health in its definition of health.

Mental health problems and side effects

  • According to the World Health Organization, depression will be the second biggest problem worldwide by the year 2020.
  • It has been proved in many researches that depression is the main cause of heart related diseases.
  • Mental illness gives rise to many social problems like unemployment, poverty and intoxication.

India and Mental Disease – Current Scenario

  • According to the WHO, India has the highest number of people suffering from mental illnesses.
  • Statistics suggest that suicide is the leading cause of death among people aged 15–29 years in India.
  • On the basis of the above facts, it would not be an exaggeration to say that India is moving towards a serious mental health epidemic.
  • Lack of mental health workers is also an important topic in India. According to the World Health Organization, in 2011, there were 0.301 psychiatrists and 0.07 psychiatrists for every 100,000 patients suffering from mental health disorders in India.
  • Census 2011 data shows that about 1.5 million people in India have intellectual disability and about 722,826 people with psychosocial disabilities.
  • Despite this, the expenditure on mental health in India is only 1.3 percent of the total government health expenditure.
  • Also, the 2011 census data shows that about 78.62 percent people suffering from mental diseases are unemployed.
  • Lack of awareness regarding mental disorders is also a major challenge facing India. Due to lack of awareness and ignorance in the country, a person suffering from any type of mental health disorder is considered ‘mad’ and is treated like animals against his will.
  • Mentally ill people in India either do not have the required facilities of care and even if they have facilities, their quality is not good.

Mental health challenges and issues

  • Statistics show that the suicide rate of women in India is much higher than men. The origin of which is believed to be domestic violence, marriage at a young age, youth motherhood and economic dependence on others. Women are more sensitive than men in terms of mental health. But this issue has become so common in our society that people do not pay attention to it.
  • Social confusion related to mental health disorders is also a major challenge in India. For example in India, suicide was considered a crime till the year 2017 and a maximum of 1 year imprisonment was made for it under the IPC. While many psychologists have proven that depression, stress and anxiety may be some of the major reasons behind suicide.
  • It is important to note that India also lacks the necessary capabilities to address mental health issues. Statistics show that in the year 2017, there were only 5,000 psychiatrists and less than 2,000 psychologists for the large population of India.
  • The economy also suffers due to mental health issues not being addressed properly. This not only damages the human capital of the country but also worsens the economic condition of the affected person, because all the facilities available for the treatment of this disease are relatively expensive.
  • According to the WHO, mental health disorders have the greatest impact on the youth and since the majority of India’s population is young, this poses a major challenge.
  • If a person once suffers from a mental illness, then he has to live with the same pain throughout his life, even if he gets rid of that disease. Even today, it is very challenging for these types of people to join the mainstream of society.
  • Lack of awareness regarding mental disorders and symptoms often leads to a difference between the patient and others in society and the patient faces social isolation, which can worsen his condition.

Efforts so far

  • The Government of India started the National Mental Health Program (NMHP) in the year 1982 with an aim to improve the mental health situation in the country and bring awareness in this regard. It is important to note that there are mainly 3 components to this program:
  • Treatment of mentally ill person
  • Rehabilitation
  • Mental Health Promotion and Prevention
  • The Mental Health Act (MHA-87) was enacted in the year 1987.
  • In the year 1996, the District Mental Health Program (DMHP) was launched to make mental health services up to the primary level of the country.
  • The Mental Health Care Act, 2017 replaced the Mental Health Act, 1987 in the year 2017.
  • Additionally the WHO supports governments under the goal of strengthening and promoting mental health.
  • In 2013, the World Health Assembly approved the ‘Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan for 2013-2020’. Under this scheme, all WHO member countries had expressed their commitment to work in the field of mental health and to raise awareness.

Mental Health Care Act 2017

  • The main objective of this Act, implemented in the year 2017, is to provide mental health protection and services to people suffering from mental diseases. Also, this act also ensures the right of mental patients to live life with dignity.


According to this act, ‘mental illness’ refers to disorders related to thoughts, mood, sensation and memory, etc. which cause difficulty in the normal functions of our life such as decision making and identification of reality.

Rights of mentally ill person

  • The Act ensures that every person will have the right to access mental health services.
  • The Act also empowered free treatment to all people below the poverty line.
  • According to the Act, every mentally ill person shall have the right to live life with dignity and no discrimination shall be made on any basis including gender, religion, culture, caste, social or political beliefs, class or disability.
  • A mentally ill person will have the right to maintain confidentiality in relation to their mental health, treatment and physical healthcare.
  • A photo or any other information related to a mentally ill person cannot be made public without its consent.

Advance directive

A person suffering from mental illnesses will have the right to give advance instructions explaining how and how to treat his illness and who will be his designated representative in this context.

Suicide is not a crime

A person attempting suicide will be treated as suffering from mental illness and will not be punished under the Indian Penal Code. The act amended section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, which earlier considered suicide a crime.

Road ahead

  • The problem related to mental health in the country is constantly increasing. In such a situation it is necessary to develop the above mentioned capabilities and increase the resources.
  • Raising awareness in this regard can also be an important step, as many patients have to deal with inhumane behavior due to lack of awareness.
  • The World Bank estimates that 90 percent of the world’s health needs can be met at the primary level, but statistics show that the primary level of health care infrastructure in India is very weak and there is only one in every 51000 people Only primary health center exists. Therefore, it is necessary to invest on the construction of Primary Health Centers.
  • Health care is a subject of the state list and hence there is a need for proper coordination between the state and the center to deal with its challenges.
  • Government financial support can also play an important role in this regard.

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