Mental Health is an often neglected and severely underdeveloped section of the health sector globally, and even more so in India. With the availability of technology and better awareness about mental health issues and concerns in India, we are at a turning point where we can create facilities and infrastructure to support and treat mental health issues in India.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) Mental Health Atlas (2011) it is estimated that one in four people in the world are affected by mental or neurological disorders, at some point in their lives. In India, the prevalence estimates vary between 5.82% and 7.3%. In terms of absolute numbers suffering from mental illnesses, the prevalence estimate throws up a huge number of about 7 crore (70 million) persons. The proportion of those who need mental health care but who do not receive it, remains very high. This so-called “treatment gap” is estimated to reach between 76-85% for low- and middle-income countries, and 35-50% for high-income countries.
India is considered by WHO a low-middle income country and falls short of the necessary mental health professionals to deal with this gap.
In 2011, the World Health Organization estimated a shortage of 1.18 million mental health professionals, including 55,000 psychiatrists, 628,000 nurses in mental health settings, and 493,000 psychosocial care providers needed to treat mental disorders in 144 low- and middle-income countries.
The figures for psychologists working in mental health in India is 0.047 per 100,000 population compared to a global median of 0.60, this is roughly 13 times less than the global median. Compare this, with countries like Australia that have 84.6 psychologists per 100,000 population or US 29.03, Switzerland 40.78, Pakistan 0.25, China 0.18 per 100,000 population.