The Indian government presented the annual union budget a few days ago in the parliament. There were many new developments made regarding digital currency and finances. But, what caught our attention was the mention of mental health or rather the introduction of mental health resources accessibility.
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman while introducing the budget said, “The pandemic has accentuated mental health problems in people of all ages. To better the access to quality mental health counseling and services, a National Tele Mental Health program will be launched.”
This article will focus on exploring what this initiative will mean for a common citizen of India. Furthermore, what is needed in the future concerning the mental health of the people?
What is it-
- A free tele counselling for mental health that can be accessed by all citizens
- Available 24 hours a day for seven days a week
- People can contact one of the 23 designated services and get counselling services
- It is being facilitated by the professionals and counsellors in NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences)
- While the tech support is being provided by the IIIT-B (International Institute of Information Technology- Bangalore)
What it means-
The government will be launching mental health counseling services for emotional well-being. Also, to help them deal with the problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the first time such an initiative was taken by the Indian government.
It can be understood that the government albeit slowly but is realizing the importance of a strong mental health care system. It is acknowledging that mental health services hold a prominent place in our society. And is the need of the hour. The government acknowledged that pandemic has negatively affected the common man. There is a need for mental health services to deal with the issues unseen. It cannot be neglected that COVID-19 triggered many issues and made people vulnerable and highlighted the urgency of mental health services.
A reason to cheer-
Budget and mental health is a reason to cheer. The decision was very well received amongst the mental health academicians and counselors. Even the NIMHANS Director, Dr. Pratima Murthy praised the decision and called it a “game-changer” in mental care accessibility in India. Several HR of top firms also hailed the move saying that it will open new doors. Furthermore, encourage the private firms to provide mental health services to their employees and their family members.
What more is needed-
While this initiative is indeed a good way to acknowledge the importance of mental health services by the government. It certainly is not enough. There is a need for many other provisions. To deal with the mental-health demands of India’s growing population we need more.
1. Specialized services for front-line workers-
It can be agreed upon that this pandemic brought the hidden heroes who selflessly rendered their services. Be it the Doctors, Nurses, police personnel, civic employees amongst others. They have undergone tremendous stress and pressure and their mental health should also be considered.
2. Changes in the MHA-
The government made certain changes in the MHA (Mental Healthcare Act 2017) but it still doesn’t have the representation that is needed. There is a need to make more developments in the act to make it more accessible to the citizens.
3. Awareness camps in rural areas-
Moreover, in rural areas issues such as depression and anxiety are still viewed as “western concepts”. Mainly due to lack of awareness. More awareness schemes should be taken by the government to educate the rural masses about the importance of mental- health care.
4. Inclusivity of mental health resources in the government and government-aided spaces-
Including free mental health resources in all government and government-aided institutions. To desensitize the masses and to educate them. To make children and adults aware that seeking mental help from a professional is not something to be afraid of.
Mental health care is also an essential need. Let us acknowledge that.
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