Bridging the enormous deficit of mental healthcare in India

Last Updated - 13 Oct,2016
One in five Indians will experience a mental illness by 2020. However, according to estimates, even if all ~4,000 psychiatrists available in India are involved in face-to-face patient contact for eight hours a day, five days a week, and see a single patient for a total of 15-30 minutes over a 12 month period, they would together be able to care for only 10-20% of mental health patients in India. Besides a severe shortage of mental health professionals, scarce infrastructure, poor quality services, lack of awareness, dearth of research to build and scale programs, and limited funding, all contribute to India’s growing mental health crisis. Dasra’s report, Mind the Gap, lays out the key challenges and priorities for action, alongside the work of scalable and impactful social organizations for funders’ consideration.
Globally, lost economic output on account of mental illness will amount to USD 16 trillion over the next 20 years. In India, this is estimated at USD 1.03 trillion between 2012 and 2030. Conversely, a global investment of USD 147 billion in treatment for depression and anxiety will result in approximately USD 400 billion in returns.

Individuals with mental disorders comprise a vulnerable group, subjected to immense stigma and discrimination. They:
  • Experience high levels of physical and sexual abuse.
  • Often encounter restrictions in the exercise of their political and civil rights.
  • Face significant barriers in attending school and finding employment.
  • Are at increased risk of other illnesses (HIV, cardiovascular disease, diabetes etc.) and even decreased life expectancy, especially if their disorders go untreated.
Positive mental health is linked to a range of development outcomes, including better health status, higher educational achievement, enhanced productivity and economic output, improved interpersonal relationships, better parenting, and improved quality of life. On the other hand, failure to address mental health issues devastates lives and undermines economic productivity.

Dasra has identified the following key themes to improve the lives of millions living with mental illness in India:
  • Emphasize prevention and promotion in mental health. This can be done by:
    • Integrating mental health into overall health systems
    • Linking solutions to other development priorities including housing,education, employment, sports, etc. to enable full inclusion.
    • Focusing on at-risk groups such as caregivers who commonly experience high levels of anxiety and depression.
  • Focus on inclusive, community-based mental healthcare. This holds enormous potential to reduce stigma and human rights violations, improve the psycho-social health of the community at large and improve the social integration of individuals with mental illness.
  • Secure basic dignity and rights for people with mental illness. India’s Mental Health Act still allows for a person to be involuntarily admitted into a mental institution for up to 90 days without legal review. Once admitted and declared ‘mentally ill’, they are considered legally incapacitated and are stuck inside with little say in how they are treated.
Dasra’s reader identifies eight key interventions by social organizations working to improve the state of mental healthcare in India:
  • Creating awareness among key stakeholders
  • Providing short-term care in outpatient facilities
  • Delivering long-term treatment in mental health institutions
  • Providing remote support through technology
  • Providing rehabilitative care
  • Training and building capacity of key stakeholders
  • Providing formal education and certification
  • Advocating with the government through evidence-building
  • Fund the leading organizations profiled in the report.
  • Contact the highlighted organizations, foundations and experts to explore opportunities to learn and partner.
  • Share this page with people you know to direct more support to this cause.