Govts should recognise the role of NGOs in mental healthcare, says NHRC acting chairperson

New Delhi, Sept.4 : A day-long meeting of state health secretaries on mental healthcare, organized by the National Human rights Commission, began in New Delhi today.

Inaugurating it, Mr. Justice Cyriac Joseph, Acting Chairperson, NHRC, said that the rehabilitation of mentally-ill patients, among other issues, remains is a key area of concern in the area of mental healthcare and governments should recognize this fact that they need to have a positive attitude towards NGOs, who can play a big role in addressing this concern.

It may not help the cause, if we discourage them. Questioning their relevance will be uncharitable and counter-productive. He said that private institutions are also playing an equally important role and the Governments should also support their efforts by removing impediments.

Mr. Justice Cyriac Joseph said that having a new law on Mental Healthcare may be useful but we have already enough laws. The real problem does not lie in the absence of a law but in failure to implement the existing ones.

Intellectually, we are concerned about the attention, the Mental Healthcare should receive but that does not take us to change of mindsets, attitude and change of heart.

Unutilized funds by States for Mental Healthcare could be one of the manifestations of this attitudinal problem. Also, we do not have an explicit culture of recognizing the role being played by each person in a system, including those involved in the Mental Healthcare, by appreciating their work in order to further motivate them.

He said that the Mental Health is an important human right and the NHRC is deeply committed to protect this human right and willing to cooperate with all the stakeholders in this regard.

In the same spirit, the Commission has provided this Forum to bring all the stakeholders at one stage to discuss and share their experiences and best practices in order to understand the shortcomings and what needs to be done to improve the Mental Healthcare System in the country.

Earlier, Mr. S.N. Mohanty, Secretary General, NHRC gave an insight into the efforts made by the Commission towards improvement of Mental Healthcare and said that the Commission is of the firm view that its guidelines and recommendations will give positive results.

Mr. Anshu Prakash, Joint Secretary, Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare expressed the hope that the new Mental Healthcare Bill will be ready this year for consideration of the Cabinet and will be a landmark Act. He said that the Centre is paying a focused attention towards Mental Health issue and expressed concern that States were not utilizing funds meant for Mental Healthcare.

Mr. Prakash said that Mental Healthcare needs affirmative action. The National Mental Health Programme (NMHP) is not receiving the due attention from the States.

They need to set targets and fix responsibilities to ensure that there is affirmative action on improving the Mental Healthcare. The huge shortage of human resources, including medical and para-medical staff, lack of infrastructure and general awareness about the mental health continues to remain a problem.

Nobody talks of co-morbidity of mental health with other diseases, which cannot be handled alone either by a psychiatrist or a psychologist without inter-sectoral coordination.

Inter-ministerial as well as institutional cooperation is also very important for addressing the Mental Health issues. Private sector must contribute in building infrastructure and medical students while doing MBBS should be exposed to this subject.

The day-long meeting has been called to deliberate upon the following objectives and come out with suggestions:

. Discuss ways for better implementation of the National Mental Health Programme (NMHP) and especially the District Mental Health Programme (DMHP), infrastructure and manpower development in the States/UTs;

. Discuss ways for better utilization of funds allocated by Government of India for various components of NMHP;

. Sharing of good practices on Mental Care including rehabilitation in States/UTs; and

.Discuss ways for proper rehabilitation of cured patients in the community.

The participants include, among others, NHRC Members, Mr. Justice D. Murugesan and Mr. S.C. Sinha, senior officers, Special Rapporteurs, State Health Secretaries, Mental Health experts and academicians, Heads of Mental Health Institutions and civil society representatives. (ANI)