Issues related to mental health in Assam might go up by around 10 per cent by 2020. There are various issues of mental illness among children and adults which need to be identified at an early stage.
The National Mental Health Survey – Assam state report, published last year, had stated that 5.85% of the general population (above 18 years) is affected by issues of mental health which could escalate to 15% by 2020. But there was a lack of trained staff, according to the report.
“The children with autism need one-to-one care and training and an early intervention is very crucial,” Dr Anjana Goswami, director and founder member of NGO Ashadeep pointed out.
The state government has recently initiated some training sessions for teachers to improve the mental health scenario in Assam.
“The school teachers are undergoing training on child psychology now. As teachers, they can reach out to students at large and can help identify slow learning problems among them at an early age,” Dr Rajeeb Kr. Sharma, Addl. Director of Health Services, Assam said.
“The teachers will also be trained to impart life-skills to students to help them improve their social and emotional health,” Dr Sharma added.
The Mental Health Act 2017 also puts special emphasis on the role of the care-givers.
In order to bridge the gap of trained professionals at the grass-root level, the state government took a crucial step with the latest recruitment of 21 psychiatrists.
“With the new recruitment we will now cover 21 districts and will open IPD and OPD within March to streamline mental health care delivery,” Dr Sharma said.
He also noted that there are no financial constraints at present and with timely fund disbursal, this step will bring a positive change.
“Over the years, we have witnessed a change in people’s perspective. They are now willing to openly talk about mental illness and the stigma is slowly wearing off,” Dr Goswami added. However, institutional healthcare still remains inaccessible as they are very costly.
“The medicines for mental illness patients are expensive and we need the government’s intervention to make these medicines accessible to the patients,” Dr Anjana Goswami said. She also noted there is gap in policy-making in this regard.
She further said in the rehabilitation centre run by Ashadeep, there are increasing numbers of cases of schizophrenia and major depression among women. Of the 86 people in the centre, 55 are female members dealing with different mental illnesses.
“Women at large are vulnerable to mental health issues due to stress at workplace and other forms of abuse. On the other hand, many teenagers deal with ‘adolescent turmoil’ which makes them prone to risky behaviours. Hence, we are also working in tandem with police forces towards suicide prevention,” Dr Sharma said.