Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Issues in Self-Reporting of Mental Illness


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : Mental Healthcare in India


  • Recent studies, including one by researchers from IIT Jodhpur, indicate alarmingly low rates of self-reporting for mental health problems in India.

Mental Health Under-Reporting in India

  • NSS 2017-2018 Findings: The NSS data, based on self-reporting by over 550000 individuals, revealed mental illness self-reporting rates of less than 1%.
  • Scale of Mental Illness: The 2017 NMHS conducted by NIMHANS estimated around 150 million individuals requiring treatment for mental illness in India.
  • WHO Estimates: India bears a heavy burden with 2443 DALYs per 10,000 population and an age-adjusted suicide rate of 21.1 per 100,000.
  • Suicide Trends: India’s contribution to global suicide deaths surged to 36% in 2016, with a concerning rise reported in 2021, especially among youth and middle-aged adults.
  • National Mental Health Survey: Alarming rates of depression among teenagers and Substance Use Disorders (SUDs) prevalence of 22.4% among adults highlight the gravity of the situation.

Key Challenges

  • Stigma and Awareness: Social stigma and poor awareness impede access to mental healthcare, leading to delayed treatment-seeking and social isolation.
  • Out-of-Pocket Expenses: The IIT Jodhpur study highlighted significant out-of-pocket expenses, particularly in the private sector, for mental health services.
  • Vulnerability Factors: Individuals with lower income and education levels are more vulnerable to mental disorders, exacerbating their socioeconomic challenges.
  • Socioeconomic Divide: Individuals with higher incomes were more likely to report health problems, indicating a socioeconomic disparity.
  • Budget and Infrastructure: Inadequate budget allocation, lack of insurance coverage, and insufficient infrastructure pose hurdles to mental healthcare delivery.
  • Shortage of Professionals: India grapples with a severe shortage of mental health professionals, with only 3 psychiatrists per million people.

Government Initiatives

  • Mental Healthcare Act, 2016: Aims to safeguard the rights of individuals with mental illnesses, enhance access to mental healthcare, and decriminalize suicide attempts.
  • National Mental Health Policy, 2014: Prioritizes universal access to mental healthcare and endeavors to mitigate risk factors linked to mental health issues.

Way Forward

  • Combat Stigma: Launch nationwide campaigns to shift societal attitudes towards mental illness.
  • Enhance Awareness: Integrate mental health education into curricula and disseminate resources in local languages.
  • Improve Coordination: Strengthen collaboration between central and state governments for effective policy implementation.
  • Innovative Solutions: Explore tele-mental health services, bolster support for NGOs, and foster community engagement to address resource shortages.
  • Multisectoral Approach: Embrace a life-course perspective on mental health promotion and enforce legal frameworks.
  • Enhance Mental Health Ecosystem: Define quality metrics, recognize mental health advocates, and ensure affordability and accessibility of care.
  • Embrace Traditional Healing: Explore complementary medicines like Yoga and Ayurveda for mental health treatment.


  • By prioritizing mental healthcare and fostering collaboration across sectors, India can build a resilient mental health ecosystem that promotes well-being and supports individuals in need.
  • Embracing traditional healing practices alongside modern interventions can offer holistic solutions, paving the way for a mentally healthier nation.

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