According to the data released by the World Health Organization in 2022, one out of eight individuals in the world suffers from a mental health disorder. This carries an astonishing 15 percent of the world's disease burden.
Despite passing mental health legislation and increasing awareness of the medical condition, the Union Government still needs to address the financing for the mental health crisis in India.
Mental health specialists have urged for additional financing for mental health institutions in the country to upgrade their infrastructure, build the capacity of mental health practitioners, and launch a behaviour change campaign to de-stigmatise mental health in the pre-Budget proposals.
India And Mental Health
In the last five years, the government has made significant strides in mental health law and policy, from the Mental Health Care Act of 2017 to the recently launched National Suicide Prevention Policy. In recent years, the government has prioritised mental health issues in every budget session. Experts encouraged the government to raise the financial allocation for mental health, indicating a progressive movement in the Indian health ecosystem from a conventional concentration on physical health to mental health.
Also read: Study: Living In Greener Spaces Can Improve Mental Health
The previous budget, for example, stated that a National Tele Mental Health Programme would be started to create 23 tele mental health centres to provide free telehealth services to the people. Such methods, if implemented properly, would boost the reach and effectiveness of therapy for mental health illnesses. Nonetheless, the previous budget allocated only ₹ 40 crore to the National Mental Health Program out of a total health budget of roughly ₹86,200 crore.
Expectations From 2023 Budget
With the goal of effectively countering the ongoing and upcoming mental health crisis, the government should take substantial steps in terms of infrastructure development, increased outreach, sensitization, de-stigmatization, management and development of human resources required for the treatment of mental health disorders. To care for the growing number of patients suffering from mental health disorders in modern times, an increase in the number of experts capable of rendering services in relation to the treatment of mental health disorders is also required.
Budgetary allocations must account for adequate training facilities, career opportunities, and incentives to guarantee the availability of clinical psychologists, psychotherapists, psychiatrists, and other specialists needed to treat mental health diseases.
The upcoming budget should commit to a network of services ranging from primary care outpatient treatment at primary health centres (PHCs) and general hospitals to low-cost community-based mental health care.
The union government should aim to provide adequate financial support to mental health institutions in the country to improve infrastructure, build the capacity of mental health professionals, and launch a behaviour change campaign to de-stigmatize mental health.
The entire funding allocation for the National Mental Health Programme (NMHP) has been constant over the last few years at ₹40 crores. In addition to the apex institutes such as AIIMS, NIMHANS, and PGI, a more balanced budget should be granted to peripheral centres and medical colleges for better management of the complexity and diversity of mental health demands.
Also read: Debunking 5 Common Myths Related To Mental Health Therapy
The government should prioritise the equitable deployment of adequate manpower in hospitals throughout the country. We've seen new hospitals spring up all over the place, especially in rural and distant locations, but there isn't enough staff. So manpower is a major concern, and these healthcare workers must be well-trained in order to employ cutting-edge technology and participate in the digitisation process.
Given that the vast majority of people still do not have access to expert care to deal with mental health issues for reasons such as stigma, the government can allocate some funds to develope an Information Education and Communication (IEC) campaign in order to make a genuine effort to end the mental health challenge of India.