Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Dire need to mainstream mental health care in State


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By Our Spl Correspondent

 Shillong: Bethany Society, SAN-KER and Martin Luther Christian University (MLCU) jointly organized a one-day discussion on “Developing an MPhil in Community Mental Health” here on Wednesday. Leading mental health experts including psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, neuro- psychiatrists from across the country attended the deliberations.

Initiating the discussion, Carmo Noronha of Bethany Society said this is the first attempt at creating a web of institutions concerned about mental health care. Noronha said there is urgent need to increase the human resources in mental health care in Meghalaya as people with mental illness have no advocates and no voice.

He informed that the 7-year comprehensive project for promoting mental health care in Meghalaya is funded by Hans Foundation, New Delhi. The project seeks to integrate mental health with the range of health services offered by the State Government.

Dr R Srinivasa Murthy, former head of Dept of Psychiatry, Vellore, said mental health is an important issue as it is discussed in mainstream magazines. Murthy pointed out that Lancet, the leading international health journal, carried six key articles on mental health recently.

Stressing on the promotive, curative and preventive aspects of mental health, Dr Murthy said mental health care is like a pyramid beginning with self care, informal community care, community health services, psychiatric services in general hospitals, specialist services and long stay facilities, in that order.

Meanwhile, Dr Chandran Gnanamuthu, Prof and former Head of Neurology, CMC Vellore, spoke of the relation between psychiatry and neurology.

“Neurology is the hardware in mental health care and psychiatry is the software. Both are integral in treating mental illness, since imaging of the brain is an important part of the treatment,” Dr Gnamuthu said.

He listed out the priorities in mental health beginning with service, research, education and community ownership of the entire mental health care system.

Dr Sandi Syiem of SAN-KER while speaking about Referral and Follow-up in the Community said the Mental Health Care Bill is a pending legislation since 2010, hence there is no policy on the subject.

Highlighting the actual situation of mental health care in Meghalaya Dr Syiem said the State has a total of 7 psychiatrists of which 4 are at the Meghalaya Institute for Mental Health and Neurological Sciences (MIMHANS) and 3 are at SAN-KER. He informed that there is only one clinical psychologist, one occupational therapist, two psychiatric nurses and one social worker, all of them at SAN-KER.

Dr Syiem also said that many with mental health disorders from Meghalaya prefer to go out for treatment and only come back as chronically ill patients. Dr Syiem said present studies reveal that one out of four families have someone with mental disorders, adding that it is high time society recognises the problem and demands better mental health care services.

Gideon Arulmani, a clinical psychologist and head of Promise Foundation, Bangalore, spoke on cross-cultural issues in community mental health. He explained that counselling techniques need to be culturally relevant.

The objective of the day’s deliberations was to come up with an appropriate framework for the M.Phil programme on Counselling Psychology and to give it a focus so that it addresses the demands of mental health care in Meghalaya and the North East.


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