National Tele-Mental Health Program: Experts hail ‘rare mention’ of mental health in Budget 2022


Recognizing the impact of COVID-19 pandemic in health not only physical but also psychological and emotional, the government announced a program ‘Tele Nacional de Salud Mental’ in this year’s edition Budget 2022. Playing the theme of mental health In recent times, in her hour and a half speech, the Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman He said: “The pandemic has accentuated mental health problems in people of all ages. To improve access to quality mental health care and counseling services, a National Tele Mental Health program will be launched.”

According to the Minister of Finance, the program will include a network of 23 mental health telecenters of excellence. “NIMHANS will be the hub and IIIT Bangalore will provide technology support for the mental health program,” he mentioned.

Around the world, pandemic-induced job losses, lack of social contact and anxiety There have been some factors that have led to the rise in mental health problems. According to the National Health Mission of the Government of India, between six and seven percent of the population suffer from mental disorders. It also notes that one in four families is likely to have at least one member with a mental or behavioral disorder, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

These families not only provide physical and emotional support, but also bear the negative impact of stigma and discrimination. Most of them (>90 percent) remain untreated. Low awareness of the symptoms of mental illness, related myths and stigma, lack of knowledge about the availability of treatment, and the potential benefits of seeking treatment are important causes of the large treatment gap.

Subhamoy Dastidar, director of AtEase, an inclusive mental health platform for women (cis and transgender women) and non-binary people, called it “gratifying” to see “mental health receive exceptional mention in the Union budget”. “This demonstrates the government’s acceptance and concern for holistic health and not just physical health, which has been highlighted by the pandemic. The proposed National Tele-Mental Health program will indeed go a long way toward supporting the mental health and emotional well-being of individuals, families, and society at large. Post-pandemic, especially since 2020, mental health problems are no longer seen as an urban phenomenon but have spread through small towns in India and the need to make mental health services more accessible is greater. than ever,” Dastidar said in a statement.

Kamna Chhibber, head of the department of mental health, Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences, Fortis Healthcare welcomed the “much needed” move. “This ensures that it helps the shift towards normalizing conversations in mental health, encourages people to recognize mental health-related illnesses, seek treatment, and also remove stigma in the long run. In a large country like ours, we have a significant shortage of experts and accessibility and affordability have continued to be an issue,” he said.

Dr. Pratima Murthy, director of the Department of Psychiatry at NIMHANS called it a “fantastic opportunity to reach the masses.” “This initiative was very necessary and timely considering the lack of awareness. It will also help us identify, diagnose and ensure people are referred to the right places for help,” she said. indianexpress.comand added: “We are looking at the release soon.”

Help is available (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

The focus on telecounseling that opens it up to digital interventions will improve the privacy aspect, thus addressing the ‘stigma’ aspect that Indians generally have towards mental health, said Narendra Kinger, a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, founder of Talk to Me, in a statement.

On how the initiative will also help address the lack of adequately trained professionals, Dr. Murthy said, “Given that there are 23 telemental health centers of excellence, we hope to train more and more support professionals, including counselors, to reach more people and address the gaps.”

Dr. Chhibber agreed: “Digitalization is one of the best solutions to these existing problems and this can ensure that, over a period of time, we can take significant steps to make mental health care a reality for everybody”.

Ameera Shah, developer and CEO of Metropolis Healthcare Ltd, also praised the announcement. “Regardless of age, gender and occupation, the need to focus on mental health is necessary given the current situation. The National Tele Mental Health program is a positive step in supporting national mental health care and counseling services,” she said in a post-budget statement.

Dr Aashish Contractor, Director of Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine at Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, looks forward to a holistic programme. “It would be great if they instilled modern mental health treatment, along with our time-tested practices of yoga and meditation,” said Dr. Contractor.

To provide widespread access to healthcare, the Budget also has a Digital Health Ecosystem platform. This will comprise digital health provider and facility records, a single health identity, and universal access to health facilities. “This will help us save lives by allowing us to access contextual health information quickly, which will enable faster and better medical response in emergencies,” said Prabhdeep Singh, founder and CEO of StanPlus, one of the leading ambulance network providers. largest in India.

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