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Million Mentally Ill in India

The mentally ill are the most vulnerable members of our society and are most prone to abuse, neglect and despair. Due to the very nature of illness, which in severe cases takes away the insight, these citizens form a voiceless population.

The Minister of Health and Family Welfare in his opening remarks in the Consultative Committee meeting of the Ministry, held in Delhi last week, said that he would like to share the experience of his ministry regarding the progress made in the National Mental Health Programme (NMHP) in the country. He wished to share the difficulties faced in reaching the unreached population i.e. the mentally ill who have been away from benefits of modern treatment due to stigma, ignorance and paucity of services.

Underlining the importance of the programme he said that at any given time about 10% of the population suffers from various mental and behavioral disorders. Out of these, approximately 10% suffer from severe mental disorders. And 10% of those suffering from severe mental disorders require long-term treatment. Out of those requiring long-term treatment, approximately 10% require hospitalization.

From the above estimate about 100 million population suffer from some mental ailment at any given time. The burden of neuropsychiatry disorders is estimated to be a whopping 12% of the total disease burden and imposes a heavy burden on the family and society in terms of morbidity, loss of productivity and mortality in terms of suicide in extreme cases.

A large number of people with mental problems do not seek help due to ignorance, stigma and lack of availability of services. However, most of these ailments could be treated at an outpatient basis and only a very small proportion requires hospitalization. This has led to acceptance of community-based treatment of mental disorders worldwide. Besides being less expensive community based interventions are more accessible, acceptable, less stigmatiz
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