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Oct 11, 2011 at 09:52am IST

Four crore Indians have mental illness: Study

New Delhi: Startling facts coming to light during Mental Health awareness week. A new study says that almost four crore Indians suffer from mental illnesses and there's an extreme shortage of psychiatrists.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) report, the number of suicides in India could be reduced by at least one-fourth if counselling is given on time. But there's an alarming shortage of trained psychiatrists.

Arpita Anand, a psychologist says, "There are only 4000 mental experts for a population of billion plus, how critical is that."

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken the matter up with the Medical Council of India (MCI) as a "serious Human rights issue".

Fifteen per cent of all health related disabilities in the country can be attributed to mental illness.

Yet it accounts for less than 1 per cent of the annual healthcare budget. The country is short of 30,000 trained psychiatrists for an estimated 4 crore people suffering from mental illness.

And there aren't enough paramedics, there is just one nurse for every 1000 patients.

Besides the lack of skilled professionals, the problem is of unequal distribution of mental health experts. So, out of the 4000 psychiatrists most of these experts are concentrated in the 4-5 metros. Mumbai has 300 trained psychiatrists and while that also isn't enough for the city of 1.5 crore, it certainly leaves rural India far behind.

Why aren't there enough trained psychiatrists? Only a few medical colleges even offer Psychiatry as a specialized course.

And these take in on average some 30 students a batch. And then there's the brain drain - 60 per cent of students who graduate with an MD in psychiatry head for US or UK to work.

Dr Rajesh Sagar of AIIMS, says, "Stigma is attached with psychiatry both in people and medical fraternity. People don't want to take up the course.

The government has set up the National Mental Health Programme which gives funds, but that's certainly not enough.

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