At least 60 million Indians--a number more than the population of South Africa--suffer from mental disorders, even as the country lags the world in medical professionals and spending on mental-health issues.

Nearly 10-20 million (1-2% of the population) Indians suffered from severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and nearly 50 million (5% of population) suffered from common mental disorders like depression and anxiety at the end of 2005, health and family welfare minister JP Nadda informed the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament) in May 2016, quoting data from National Commission on Macroeconomics and Health, 2005, the last report available.

India spends 0.06% of its health budget on mental healthcare. This is less than Bangladesh (0.44%). Most developed nations spend above 4% of their budgets on mental-health research, infrastructure, frameworks and talent pool, according to this 2011 World Health Organization (WHO) report.

While the central government does not maintain any dataset on mental patients since health is a state subject, it does have data on patients in three central institutions:

Another data set that captures the level of mental illness are the suicides that result.

Source: National Crime Records Bureau 2014

While suicides caused from insanity declined from 7% in 2010 to 5.4% in 2014, more than 7,000 people killed themselves due to mental disorders.

The government has commissioned a national mental health survey through the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, to estimate the number of mental patients and utilisation patterns of mental health services.

Started on June 1, 2015, the study interviewed 27,000 respondents by April 5, 2016 according to a reply in the Lok Sabha from the ministry of health and family welfare.

India is short of health professionals to address mental issues, particularly at the district and sub-district level.

There are 3,800 psychiatrists, 898 clinical psychologists, 850 psychiatric social workers and 1,500 psychiatric nurses nationwide, according to a reply by the ministry of health and family welfare in the Lok Sabha in December 2015.

This means there were three psychiatrists per million people, according to data from WHO, 18 times fewer than the commonwealth norm of 5.6 psychiatrists per 100,000 people.

By this estimate, India is short of 66,200 psychiatrists.

Similarly, based on the global average of 21.7 psychiatric nurses per 100,000 people, India needs 269,750 nurses.

The Mental Health Care Bill, 2013, which provides for protection and promotion of rights of persons with mental illness during the delivery of health care in institutions and in the community, was passed unanimously by a voice vote in the Rajya Sabha (upper house of Parliament) on August 8, 2016.

Source: Rajya Sabha

The new Bill has increased the funding to centres of excellence in mental health, from Rs 30 crore to Rs 33.70 crore per centre.

As many as 15 centres of excellence in mental health and 35 post-graduate training departments in mental health specialties have been funded to address the shortage of mental health professionals nationwide.

(Salve is an analyst with IndiaSpend.)

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