Volume 2 Issue 20 - October 15, 2004

Government to initiate new policy for mentally ill

DNIS News Network - The inhuman conditions of mental asylums and lack of acceptance of their residents in society after treatment has prompted the government to provide for treatment within the community.

Starting early next year, the Health Ministry is to launch Mobile Mental Health Outreach Clinics in 100 districts in India where facilities are not yet available.

The chosen 100 districts are neglected areas that have been identified in the Empowered Action Group (EAG), they include states such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh.

The steps have been taken in the first phase of the programme for which a budget of Rs 190 crore has been allocated. The remaining 493 districts are likely to be covered by the end of 2007.

Revamping the mental health policy has been based on the premise that nearly 1 to 5 per cent of the general population in India needs mental healthcare. With just 4,000 psychiatrists in the country, the task, according to government officials, was becoming impossible.

Recommending family involvement in taking care of the mentally ill at home, the government envisages a changed mental health policy, which includes:

  • Hospitalisation of mentally ill patients to be avoided as far as possible. They should be admitted in a general hospital psychiatric unit (GHPU).
  • The mobile unit will have a psychiatrist, a psychiatric social worker and a nurse, reaching remote areas on routine basis.
  • A family member would be asked to stay with the patient admitted at a mental hospital. Family stay wards are being created in these hospitals.
  • The hospital stay should not exceed 30 days, which is more than adequate. Follow-up treatment can be continued as outpatients.
  • No new mental hospitals will be established. More resources to be given to established GHPUs.
  • All MBBS doctors, including those in primary health centres, would be given a three-month orientation course in psychiatry.
  • Under the domiciliary aftercare programme, discharged patients would be given medicines for a fortnight/month or three months during their OPD check-ups. In the interim period, a social worker will visit the patient every week to supervise medication.

"The advent of newer anti-psychotic drugs has rendered hospitalisation virtually redundant. A vast majority of cases, including those suffering from acute psychotic depression illness or severe depression, can be safely and swiftly treated at home with oral medication," said Dr (Col) D.S. Goel, National Consultant for Mental Health, Health Ministry.

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