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India faces acute shortage of mental-health professionals

According to survey, there are drastically 87 per cent shortages of psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, psychiatric social workers and psychiatric nurses nationwide which make India one of the world’s highest suicide rates countries.    

According to latest data available from the National Crime Records Bureau(NCRB), every hour one student commits suicide in India. In 2015, the number of student suicides stood at 8,934. If we look at the records of last five years, then about 40,000 students killed themselves. The number of attempted suicides, many unreported, is likely to be much higher.

According to a Lancet report, India has one of the world’s highest suicide rates for youth aged between 15 to 29, which illustrated the need for urgent interventions for this demographic. Around 65 per cent youth between the age group of 22-25 show early signs of depression, a study has revealed. A shocking revelation comes out that shortage of around 87 per cent mental health professional is there in our country.

An online survey was conducted by ICICI Lombard wherein 1,100 male and female between the age group of 22-50 years in the country responded to the queries. The survey said that 65 per cent of the youth respondents between the age group of 22-25 displayed early signs of depression. In 2015, Maharashtra reported most student suicides of any state: 1,230 of 8,934 (14%) nationwide, followed by Tamil Nadu (955) and Chhattisgarh (625). Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu are among India’s most advanced states, and their high rate of suicides could reflect the pressures of economic growth.

Arjun Bharadwaj, a 24-year-old management student, committed suicide by jumping out of a 19th-floor hotel room had been depressed because he failed in examination and repeatedly talked about ending his life on social media. Sources also revealed that he was drug addict and which lead him to kill self. Bharadwaj’s story made the headlines because he killed himself at a five-star hotel and discussed suicide methods on social media live. There are many youth end their life but their grievance and pain goes untied even after their death.

“Professional’s help is difficult to find because India endures an 87% shortage of mental-health professionals. The situation is exacerbated by low public spending on mental health. India spends very minimum than required on mental-health services,” says Dr. D M Bhosle.

He further stated that the youth find it difficult to handle failure in examinations. “If they fail in examination then neither families nor other social institutions, offer them support or solace. Most of the time they isolate themselves to hide their feelings. Some take help of drugs or other addictions but finally land up taking drastic steps,” Dr. Bhosle said.

Family background, it would appear, has an important role in determining how young people cope with despair. Students from “happy” families suffer less with depression, according to an October 2016 study conducted among Indian university students.

Shaibya Saldanha, co-Founder of Enfold India, an NGO which works with children and adolescents said, “Student suicides are becoming common in Kota, Rajasthan, considered the capital of India’s shadow education system. Its many commercial coaching centres, that guarantee success in professional entrance exams, pressure students into striving for unrealistic goals. Unable to cope with failure and anxious about letting their family down, a growing number of Kota students opt to end their lives.”

Asif Jamadar, a DD News correspondent said, “In most of cases, this drastic step is result of not favourable interactions with parents, high hopes to others from him/her, the feeling of being given less attention, misunderstanding of romantic relationships. These children feel deprived and neglected from all corners and that’s why they take painful step on the assumptions that they are no more needed here in this world.”

As said earlier, India faces 87% shortage of mental-health professionals. There are 3,800 psychiatrists, 898 clinical psychologists, 850 psychiatric social workers and 1,500 psychiatric nurses nationwide, according to a reply by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in the Lok Sabha in December 2015. This means that there were three psychiatrists per million people, according to data from WHO, 95% fewer than the Commonwealth norm of 5.6 psychiatrists per 100,000 people. By this estimate, India is short of 66,200 psychiatrists.

The 2016 study further found that students who studied social science and humanities, performed poorly in academics, or came from disadvantaged families reported higher rates of depression. Financial issues dominate the reasons for suicide: About 70% of suicide victims in 2015 had an income of less than Rs. 100,000 per annum, the NCRB data revealed. Even though this figure isn’t disaggregated for students, it corroborated the study’s findings on the links between suicide and financial condition. Student suicides are now frequent enough to draw the attention of policymakers and celebrity campaigners. Universities in India still lack counselling centres, where trained counsellors and psychologists can assist students at the onset of emotional and mental problems so they do not spiral into full-fledged clinical depression and lead to suicide.

Looking at the seriousness of the issue even our Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ radio monthly speech on March 27, 2017, urged Indians to talk about depression and seek help if needed.

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