India Budget 2022: Government to launch national mental health programme
Recognising the importance of boosting access to good mental healthcare for individuals of all ages, the Union Budget 2022 puts a special focus on enhancing the mental health infrastructure in the country.
“The pandemic has accentuated mental health problems in people of all ages. To better the access to quality mental health counseling and care services, a national tele-mental health program will be launched. This will include a network of 23 telemedicine, mental health centers of excellence,” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, as she unveiled the Budget for fiscal year 2022-23 in parliament.
To address the mounting mental health woes there is an unprecedented need to improve the existing mental health ecosystem. This improvement is required both for demystifying what it encompasses, as well as ensuring adequate access to quality medical care for those in need.
The consequences of the pandemic have fueled action on mental health infrastructure across the country, with several employers recognising the critical need of empanelling counsellors and implementing Employee Assistance Plan (EAP).
However, given the strikingly weak healthcare infrastructure, and given one in four individuals are likely suffering from a mental health condition, the existing ecosystem is far from catering to the needs on the ground.
In 2017, the President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, asserted that India was “facing a possible mental health epidemic”. A study revealed that in the same year, 14% of India’s population suffered from mental health ailments, including 45.7 million suffering from depressive disorders and 49 million from anxiety disorders.
In the past two years, while a segment of employed individuals have witnessed a shift in access, owing to corporates taking ownership of employee well-being, a significant portion of the population still remains without access to mental healthcare. Worse, they live with a total lack of awareness on what mental health entails and how they can seek medical help.
The new Budget paints an optimistic outlook for the country’s mental healthcare infrastructure, with its strong commitment to not just destigmatize mental health but also ensure access to all.