Despondency and madness are, perhaps, the most loathed and most feared terms. The list of mental disorders is long and varied. It includes a wide spectrum of behavioural and cognitive disorders, ranging from anxiety to autism, depression to dementia and addiction to schizophrenia.
Virtually everyone suffers from some form of mental health issues at some point in his or her lifetime. Nevertheless, people branded with a mental illness are among the most stigmatized the world over.
Mental illnesses remain an urgent public health issue. It ranks as the third most costly medical condition in terms of overall healthcare expenditure in the US, behind heart conditions and traumatic injury.
Over $300 billion is spent annually in direct and indirect costs associated with mental illnesses in the US.
Major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, alcohol misuse and obsessive-compulsive disorder account for five of the 10 leading causes of disability in low- and middle-income countries. The WHO has estimated that neuropsychiatric disorders and suicide account for 12.7% of the global burden of disease. The rising incidence of suicide and high rates of mental illnesses have increased the need for better mental health care.
“Mental health promotion and investing in mental health is becoming a priority area in many of the developed nations in the world. We too need to change our attitude and ensure better investment in the sector, both budgetary and from NGOs, “ says Dr Arun Nair, a consulting psychiatrist at Medical College Hospital, Thiruvananthapuram.
Costs pertaining to India’s mental healthcare are not available. Nor are there any estimates on how much the country spends on the mental health of its 1.3 billion-strong population, as healthcare is the responsibility of the states.