World Mental Health Day is being celebrated every year on the 10th of October since 1992 at the initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health and consequently World Health Organization. And 1994 onwards, the Day has been observed based on various themes after undergoing a thorough process that prioritises needs as observed globally. 2022’s theme is “Make Mental Well-Being for all a Global Priority” underlining the palpable need to make mental health issues a priority.
India ranks the highest, as per studies, globally, in terms of prevalence of persons with mental illness coupled with poor infrastructure and facilities related to mental health. Studies also suggest that human workforce in the field of mental health in India is relatively poor with an estimated 0.3 Psychiatrists only per lakh population against WHO’s recommendation of 1 Psychiatrist per lakh population. Investment by the Indian Government to Health Care, and specifically mental health has seen some marginal increment but compared to the suggestive need, much more investment is needed especially to the National Mental Health Program that parents District Mental Health Programs (DMHP) which are meant to cater to people at the grass root level.
In Nagaland, the ground reality is a glaring indication that mental health issue is obviously not a priority. Many Districts have been created in Nagaland over the years but the number of DMHPs remains stagnant at 5; one each in Dimapur, Kohima, Longleng, Mokokchung and Phek. Unfortunately, as per reliable sources, the DMHPs are struggling to provide the best of services owing to paucity of funding from the Government. Acute shortage of Psychiatrists and mental health professionals as compared to the population is also a major concern thereby depriving services to many in need; Non-governmental services related to Mental Health is also negligible.
Prodigals’ Home, through “Community Mental Health Programme” (CMHP), supported by Azim Premji Foundation and Ashadeep Society Guwahati started its journey into the realm of Mental Health in 2020 with Chumoukedima District as the operational area. CMHP provides free Psychiatric and Psychological services besides providing personal counselling, psycho-education, IEC materials, trainings and awareness programs in collaboration with both Governmental and Non-Governmental departments. CMHP is comparatively nascent but significant reality at the community level could be gauged. There is still a general sense of ignorance and misconception fuelling stigma and discrimination towards persons with mental illness. Thus, health seeking behaviour related to mental illness is not a priority unlike seeking help for physical ailments.
The challenge is ahead is herculean but on this World Mental Health Day, we can all pledge to make our Mental Health a Priority and normalise mental illness henceforth by educating oneself about mental health issues and bringing Mental Health into our conversations, seeking help when we should and facilitating help where we can.
K. Sani, Coordinator, CMHP, Prodigals’ Home