THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:Alarmed by the finding about 11.36 per cent of the state’s total population is affected by mental disorders, the Health Department has unveiled a ‘comprehensive mental health programme’. The initiative, which plans to rope in Asha workers for identifying those suffering from mental illness in their locality, also envisions to provide the treatment via the respective family health centres (FHC).
The programme has come at a time when the latest State Mental Health Survey (SMHS) found out around 14.4 per cent of the state’s population aged 18 and above has suffered psychic disorder once in their lifetime.
“The primary objective of the programme is to provide mental health care at the primary level itself. It also aims to sensitise people about mental health and the need to avail of timely medical attention when someone experiences initial signs of mental illness,” said an officer with the Kerala State Mental Health Authority (KSMHA).
While the programme plans to provide treatment for mental disorders, illness, drug addiction, mental issues faced by children and teenagers, suicidal tendencies, depression and ailments via the FHCs, it also guarantees rehabilitation projects for those recovering from the mental disorders. “We expect to get 50 to 120 patients suffering from mental illness of various kinds from each panchayat. For that, we will train Asha workers enrolled with FHCs. Upon training they will conduct house visits and identify those who need medical attention,” said an officer with the Directorate of Health Services. In the 2018-19 Budget, the state government had earmarked `6 crore to implement the programme, which is said to be distributed among the 28 mental day care centres in the state. It also allocated `6.60 crore for the development of District Mental Health Programmes.
Report highlights lack of action plan
The SMHS report prepared by the Institute of Mental Health And Neuro Science and the National Institute for Mental Health and Neuro Science and released last November had observed though the state has a mental health policy, it lacks an action plan. It also highlighted Kerala’s poor psychiatrists to patients ratio - 1.2 psychiatrists for 1 lakh patients), whereas the availability of clinical psychologists is 0.62 and the psychiatric social worker is 0.04, for 1 lakh patients.
Some officers with KSMHA said if the mental health care programmes need to be strengthened in the state, then the authorities concerned should think about coordinating the mental health care programmes of departments like Local Self Government, Social Justice, Women and Child Development and Health. “The government should also think about chalking out right-based programmes for persons suffering from mental illness as per the Mental Health Care Act 2017. It should also concentrate on enhancing rehabilitation programmes for such persons,” said an officer.