Alert: India Has Only 4000 Doctors To Treat Mental Health Issues!

India has the highest rates of depression in the world but sheer lack of trained psychiatrists is hurting the country

3 min read
India is  the suicide capital of the world with depression being the main cause (Photo: iStock)
  • There are more than 7 crore mentally ill people in India and less than 4000 doctors to treat them: NIMHANS
  • Most of these are concentrated in metros or two-tier cities: NIMHANS
  • Most facilities, which admit the mentally challenged, are in a deplorable state, patients are treated worse than animals: Human Rights Watch
  • With little or no psychiatric facilities in smaller towns, how are families of the mentally ill coping?

Almost everyone has days when they feel down. Sad, anxious, afraid, angry. But then the next day they are up and running again.

In fact, we are most strongly given the message that we have to be up and running. Those who just dont seem to be getting their act together may, at best get some sympathy for a while at least. But that can wear thin really fast. The sufferer is then told with barely concealed annoyance that ‘they need help’. This phrase, ‘you need help’ has actually become an insult.

State of Mental Health Infrastructure in India

There is one trained psychiatrist for 20,000 mentally ill patients in India (Photo: iStock)
There is one trained psychiatrist for 20,000 mentally ill patients in India (Photo: iStock)

WHO predicts that 20% of India’s population will suffer from some form of mental illness by the year 2020. We are woefully under-equipped to handle mental health issues on such a large scale.

India has only just begun to wake up to a mental health crisis that has existed for way too long. We have only about 4000 trained psychiatrists for 1.2 billion people. Conservative estimates claim that 50 million people suffer from serious to moderate mental illnesses annually.

(Photo: The Quint)
(Photo: The Quint)

NIMHANS estimates that currently, at least 35 lakh Indians need hospitalisation on account of mental illnesses. But the country has only 43 institutions and less than 26,000 hospital beds.

Inside the Mental Health Institutions: A corridor at the female ward in Lumbini Park Mental Hospital, Kolkata (Photo: PTI)
Inside the Mental Health Institutions: A corridor at the female ward in Lumbini Park Mental Hospital, Kolkata (Photo: PTI)

Of these 43 institutions, only nine are equipped to treat children. Moreover, many of them are medieval-era, asylum-style institutions with high boundary walls, artificial barriers and patients kept in solitary confinement.

Role of Psychoanalytic Therapy and Research Centre

With growing awareness, the stigma around mental illnesses and seeking therapy is fading to a certain extent. The irony is, now that people are ready for therapists, are therapists ready for them?

I believe that with some notable exceptions, most counsellors are inadequately trained and after qualifying, are largely left to function with no proper  support or supervision.

What we lack is a comprehensive plan for mental health services for the country as a whole.

The Psychoanalytic Therapy and Research Centre (PTRC) is a group of psychoanalysts and child psychotherapists who have been working for over 40 years in Mumbai to address the dire shortage of well-trained mental health professionals.

(Photo: The Quint)
(Photo: The Quint)

The PTRC is also the Mumbai Chapter of the Indian Psychoanalytic Society. There are similar groups of analysts in Calcutta and Delhi. The IPS is one of the member countries of the International Psychoanalytic Association.

PTRC runs courses that train and qualify adult psychoanalysts and child psychotherapists. These trainings are highly intensive (average 6 years to qualify) and the calibre is on par with trainings all around the world. We also run two clinics in Mumbai that offer highly subsidised therapy to those who can’t afford private practice fees.

Our therapists work in various schools as counsellors and we offer our services to various NGO’s that work with special needs children and conduct talks and lectures in colleges and other institutions to spread psychoanalytic understanding in clinical and non-clinical applications.

That’s PTRC.

If you are in Mumbai, do drop by for our fundraising event at NCPA on the 10th February post 8pm. Tickets are available for the same on and even at the venue.

(Nuzhat Khan is a Psychoanalyst and a faculty member of the Psychoanalytic Therapy and Research Centre (PTRC)

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