Every 20th Indian is in the grip of depression, said Union Minister of Health J.P. Nadda on Friday and assured more NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences)-like institutes would be set up in the country.
Speaking at an event here to mark the World Health Day, Nadda also assured greater government focus on civil society organisations engaged in mental healthcare.
The Health Minister said that proper implementation of the Mental Health Policy would be ensured.
"Focus should be on pluralism, cross references and sharing of various practices covering geriatric, palliative and rehabilitative care. As part of its renewed strategy for mental healthcare services, the government is strengthening Public Health Centres (PHCs) and Community Health Centres (CHCs).
"Extensive training is being provided to ASHAs (Accredited Social Health Activists) and ANMs (Auxiliary Nurse Midwives) at PHCs and CHCs, so that they can become the transformers, translators and change-makers within the community," said Nadda.
The World Health Day, which falls on April 7, had Depression as its theme this year.
Highlighting the most progressive features of the Mental Health Bill, Nadda said: "Decriminalisation of suicide is another significant facet of the Mental Health Bill, which will ensure proper management of severe stress as a precursor for suicide attempts."
Globally, 322 million people were estimated to be suffering from depression in 2015, equivalent to 4.3 per cent of the world's population. Depression is ranked by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the single-largest contributor to global morbidity and the estimated number of people living with depression increased by 18.4 per cent between 2005 and 2015.
The situation in India is more grave with over 20 million Indians suffering from depression.
Henk Bekedam, the WHO Representative to India, said that depression being the single-largest cause of morbidity globally, it is a public health priority and health concern for us.
"While the government legislates, creates an enabling environment and makes professional services available, the onus is on each one of us to reach out, be it a friend, a colleague, a neighbour or family and make a difference, even save a life. It is equally important for patients to seek help when depressed," said Bekedam.
According to WHO, globally nearly 800,000 people die every year, accounting for close to 1.5 per cent of all deaths, bringing it to the top 20 leading causes of death.
It is estimated that in 2012, India had over 258,000 suicides, with the age group of 15-29 years being the most affected.
In this context, Bekedam highlighted some recent developments that bode well for India in the area of mental health, including the mental health policy.
"The National Health Policy 2017 prioritises mental health services as a component of addressing non-communicable disease and decriminalises attempt to suicide and has a rights-based approach," said Bekedam.
At the function, Nadda also launched the Report Book on the Centre for Well Being at NIMHANS.