BANGALORE: Mental disorders are a leading cause for disability burdens. They impose high economic costs and affect the quality of life of affected people, shows evidence worldwide. The national health policy does not have a comprehensive response system to address mental health problems, according to the first National Mental Health Policy of India report announced recently by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
The policy paper suggests integration of mental and general health, inter-sectoral coordination that focuses on illness and disability, promotion of human rights, reforms in mental hospitals, response to the needs of vulnerable groups such as women, children and homeless persons with mental illness and support for caregivers and families.
To address the shortage of mental health nurses, Masters and Diploma courses should be started so that there are more para-medical personnel trained in psychiatric or mental health nursing. A clear defined role along with required skills should be outlined so that nursing services are used appropriately, the report states.
The policy paper also notes that auxiliary nursing midwives should be given an opportunity for skill upgradation in mental health as this is also perhaps the largest women health workforce in the country. This workforce caters to mothers and children, hence their involvement in child and adolescent mental health services will be useful.
For specialised health services, the report recommends that more jobs be envisaged in the government sector. There should be a cadre of specialised mental health service providers in district hospitals.
While the biomedical approach to understanding mental health problems is important, the report suggests there are equally important psycho-social interventions that need to be incorporated into programmes across all disciplines that will help alleviate distress in small ways.
This will help broaden the scope and reach of mental health programmes and thus help bring down stigma and position mental health more positively, the report notes.