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Society must fight mental illness stigma: President Kovind

SNS | New Delhi |

Highlighting that mental health cases were on the rise among the country’s youth, the elderly and those in urban areas, President Ram Nath Kovind on Saturday said there was an urgent need to “fight” the stigma related to mental illness.

Addresses the 22nd convocation of National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in Bengaluru, Kovind said 10 per cent of Indians have one or more mental health problem, a number larger than the entire Japanese population.

“Mental health is particularly a problem among the young, in the prime of their life; among the elderly; and among those in urban areas. In India, all three segments are growing,” Kovind said.

“The biggest obstacle that patients of mental and neurological problems face is stigma and denial. This leads to the issue being ignored or simply not discussed. In some cases it leads to self-diagnosis that could worsen the situation,” he added.

“Our society has to fight this culture of stigma. We need to talk about mental health issues and treat ailments such as depression and stress as diseases that can be cured – not as guilty secrets to be pushed under the carpet,” he said further.

Kovind further said that the “major gap” of mental health professionals must be addressed as well.

“Another major gap we have to address is that of mental health professionals. I am told there are just about 5,000 psychiatrists and less than 2,000 clinical psychologists in our country. These numbers are very small,” he said.

The president advocated the role of counselling services and of practices such as yoga and vipassana meditation to help those with mental health problems.

“We need to ensure that by 2022 at least those who are suffering from severe mental disorders have been diagnosed and have access to treatment facilities. Let us take this up as a national mission,” he said.