Well deserved

It is a matter of immense pride for Bangalore, indeed for all of Karnataka, that a well-respected institution in the state, the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (Nimhans) has been accorded the status of ‘institute of national importance’. The recognition is richly deserved. Nimhans’ researchers and doctors have done exemplary work in the understanding of the complexities of the human brain, mental health, human behaviour and related issues. Started as a ‘lunatic asylum’ in the 19th century, it has evolved significantly over the decades. It has gone beyond its mandate of treatment and research to work to change public perception of mental health issues, of problems of alcohol and drug dependence and so on. Its doctors have played an important role in psycho-social rehabilitation of survivors of the 2004 tsunami and the 2005 earthquake in Kashmir. The impact of its work has been felt not just in Karnataka but across India. In fact, this ‘institute of national importance’ has global significance as the impact of its treatment and research work has been felt beyond India’s borders.
Nimhans will now come directly under the Union ministry of health and be on par with other institutions like AIIMS in Delhi. It will enjoy greater autonomy, which means it will have more freedom in formulating its syllabus and teaching methods.

Health related work should not be restricted to wards and laboratories. It should reach out to people who hesitate to come for treatment. Several doctors in Nimhans have reached out to those in need of help. However, there is only so much that individuals and individual institutions can do, restricted as they are by their infrastructure, location and so on. India has a limited number of hospitals offering affordable treatment for mental health problems. This is especially the case in conflict zones like Chhattisgarh, the Northeast and Jammu and Kashmir where post-traumatic stress disorders are widespread. While doctors from Nimhans have provided medical help to people in these regions their interventions are ad hoc in nature. Sustained support is important. As an ‘institute of national importance’ will Nimhans lead the campaign for more institutions like itself to be set up in these areas? Its new status will give Nimhans’ campaigns greater gravitas in public discourse. It should lead the way in removing misperceptions associated with mental illnesses.

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