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Mental Health Gets A Mention In Budget 2022; What Experts Say?

mental health

The Covid-19 pandemic has escalated mental health problems for people of all ages. While presenting the Union Budget 2022 in the second year of the pandemic,  Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a plan to set up a National Tele Mental Health program in India.

The FM said that 23 tele-mental health centers will be launched with the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) as the nodal center.

“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,” Ms Sitharaman said.

The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bangalore will provide tech support for the mental health programme, she added.

Prof T. K. Srikanth, Head of E-Health Research Center, IIIT Bangalore said, “The E-Health Research Center at IIITB has been working with NIMHANS, National Health Mission, Govt of Karnataka, on e-Manas, a first of its kind, software platform for mental health management. This has been deployed by the Govt of Karnataka and is being extended to the monitoring of the DMHP program as well as psychiatric rehabilitative services.”

“As part of the tele mental health network that NIMHANS will now help setup, IIITB will help integrate eManas with tele-health services, thus providing a comprehensive platform for mental health care that can scale up nationally,” he added.

Calling the launch of the National Tele Mental Health Program “a progressive step towards recognizing and acting on mental health issues” Dr. Shravan Subramanyam, Managing Director, Wipro GE Healthcare and President & CEO, GE Healthcare said, “The government’s focus on holistic health encompassing physical as well as mental well-being is the right step towards a strong health system, especially considering the emotional toll that Covid-19 has taken on people.”

Sahil Mathur, CHRO InMobi Group mentioned, “With numerous conversations around mental health, and the increase in digital fatigue and possible burnout, amongst the working population, we are very glad to see the government launching a national tele mental health program.”

He also said that this is a clear indication that with India now open to talking about important subjects like mental health, which had hitherto not come to the fore, leaders also need to make the conscious effort to craft initiatives that cater to our employee’s mental health and growth, personally and professionally.

Dr. Sudhir Prem Srivastava M.D. Founder, Chairman & CEO, SS Innovations, too emphasises that an increase in digital health and telehealth will absolutely help but tele-health applications must be across the board. It must be included that there is tele education, tele-diagnosis, there should be tele therapeutic and gradually we must be decentralized whereby healthcare is brought to all parts of the country. There must be also a significant investment in medical devices because currently, we import, which keeps the healthcare cost very high and not affordable to many of the people within the country

Dr Harshit Jain, Founder and Global CEO Doceree too believes that the high point of the budget is its focus on mental health.

“The proposed national tele-mental health programme shows the government’s commitment towards creating a holistic health environment. The pandemic has had a visibly damaging impact on the mental well-being of people. The situation got compounded as there was another epidemic we were facing simultaneously – the mental health epidemic which was global in nature.

Experts also believe that the decision to create an open platform for the National Digital Health Ecosystem is yet another move to digitize healthcare in the country which surely has a far-reaching impact on making quality healthcare accessible to all”.

“Digitalization will greatly help in providing timely and meaningful access to healthcare facilities. National Digital Health Ecosystem will provide instantaneous details of appropriate health providers, the facilities offered and easy access to the same,” Upendra Nath Sharma, Partner, J. Sagar Associates (JSA) said.

He added, “People from all strata of society have also gone through different levels of mental and psychological turmoils, especially working from home and facing unprecedented Covid times. In this context, government’s plan for a “National Tele Mental Health program” is immensely laudable and will go a long way in assuaging the suffering of masses, even from long distance.”

Applauding the fact that the Government has recognized mental health alongside digital health ecosystem, Dr. Preeti Singh, Chief Medical Officer, Lissun said, “We are in the middle of a mental health pandemic and have seen how mental health issues have risen in the last 2 years exponentially, Indian statistics are very gleam when it comes to mental health experts per lakh of population in India, almost making it impossible to meet the mental health needs currently, the only way out is the outreach by digital and tele medicine platforms and successfully making the train the counsellors programme at the basic level for screening the psychiatric conditions and provide the basic counselling.”

However she believes while the current number of centres of excellence is good to begin with, the country needs hands to bridge the gaps of mental health care needs to cater to India’s mental health scenario.

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