Government to lay stress on mental health services

February 20th, 2009 - 9:57 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 20 (IANS) The country faces an acute shortage of psychiatrists and mental health professionals and to tackle this the government is setting up centres of excellence in mental health, parliament was informed Friday.
Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare P. Lakshmi told the Rajya Sabha Friday that according to a recent survey by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS), the prevalence of mental disorders is about seven percent of the country’s population and of this, three percent need treatment.

“Close to three percent of the population need active treatment. There is, however, shortage of psychiatrists and mental health professionals in the country,” she said.

To address the shortage, manpower development schemes are being taken up, and that includes setting up of centres of excellence in mental health.

She said the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken a lead in this matter and the Medical Council of India has promised to create more awareness among students in medical colleges to take up postgraduate course in psychiatry.

The Medical Council has granted permission during 2005-2008 to start Doctors of Medicine (MD) in Psychiatry courses at 18 institutes and Diploma in Psychological Medicine (DPM) course in seven institutes.

The council also asked four institutes to increase the number of seats in MD (Psychiatry) course.

“This has resulted in addition of 25 seats in MD (Psychiatry) course and eight seats in DPM course,” Lakshmi said.

She said under the National Mental Health Programme, efforts are also being made to provide mental health services as a part of the general health system.

Under the District Mental Health Programme (DMHP), the central government is upgrading the psychiatric wings of medical colleges and hospitals in states and strengthening and modernising the mental hospitals to make them therapeutic units.

Lakshmi said the health ministry has also proposed to re-strategise the National Mental Health Programme (NMHP) during the 11th Five Year Plan (2007-12), which aims to extend the district mental health programmes to more districts in a phased manner.

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