Not enough help for mentally challenged

Not enough help for mentally challenged

Karnataka has only 300 psychiatrists

 “My wife has been mentally ill for the past 10 years. I have two daughters who will soon reach their marriageable age, so finding a family for them is going to a big challenge for me,” says Amar, a caregiver to his Schizophrenic wife.

When one discovers that a family member has been diagnosed with mental illness, the first reaction is that of disbelief, followed by the fear of social stigma.
On the occasion of World Mental Health Day on October 11, Deccan Herald takes a closer look at how the society has changed their attitude towards this population.

Dr B N Gangadhar, Professor of Psychiatry at Nimhans says that while one per cent of the population develop serious mental disorders, 10 per cent suffer from milder symptoms of mental illnesses.

This year’s theme declared by World Health Organisation (WHO) is ‘Mental Health in Primary Care: Enhancing Treatment and Promoting Mental Health’.


According to Dr Gangadhar, the non-medical staff (psychologists, counsellors and care-givers) play a vital role in treating mentally ill patients, however there is a serious dearth of this staff.

There has been an effort to train health workers at the level of public health centre in four districts of Karnataka –– Chamarajanagar, Shimoga, Gulbarga and Uttara Kannada –– through District Mental Health Programme (DMHP), but the numbers are still abysmal.
In Karnataka, there are just about 300 psychiatrists and 120 are in Bangalore City itself. While Mangalore, Dharwad and Mysore together have 60 psychiatrists, there are just around 20 in the rest of the State, says Dr Gangadhar.

Though people have opened up to the concept of going to psychiatrists and the number of patients have increased due to higher awareness levels, there is still a long way ahead in terms of identifying and counselling the patients.

Dr Ajit Bhide, Head of Departments, Psychiatry and Family Medicines, St Martha’s Hospital, says: “Although the awareness levels have increased among people and new drugs have shown good results, we still do not have enough psychiatrists who can handle relationship problems within the family where a therapy training is required.” Agreeing to this, Dr Gangadhar said that increase in number of nuclear families has also increased relationship problems in the society.

For sound mind

Help for families

AMEND - The Association for Mentally Disabled is a self-help group for families of the mentally ill patients.
The association provides emotional support and strength to the care-givers.
They also conduct lectures from eminent psychiatrists, psycho-social workers, lawyers, psychologists, counsellors and therapists to update their knowledge and skills on mental health. AMEND will be meeting on October 13 at Vishranthi Nilayam, 18, Infantry Road.
Call Dr Uma Potdar on 2349 6613 for further details.

Each day Nimhans receives about 200 psychiatric patients for follow-ups and about 150 are new patients.