WHO for strengthening mental healthcare system

WHO for strengthening mental healthcare system

WHO for strengthening mental healthcare system

While the country’s elderly population is projected to increase in the next few decades, dementia may be a tough mental health challenge. Keeping this in view, it is important for the country to have a National Dementia Strategy, said Dr Shekar Saxena, director, department of mental health and substance abuse, World Health Organisation (WHO).

Dr Saxena was in the City to participate in a symposium organised by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences and Gulbenkian Global Mental Health Platform. In an exclusive chat with Deccan Herald, he said the government has to consider dementia as high priority.

“For countries with high percentage of middle-class population, such as India, the disability will become an economic burden. The government must give importance to the disability,” he said.

With the experience of having worked in the country before being appointed as the director at WHO, Dr Saxena said that for a society that was in transition, the resources available are minimal. To work on the comprehensive mental health action plan 2013-2020, he said that strengthening the mental health system was important. “The number of psychiatrists and psychologists are very less,” he said.
Integration of the mental health system with community health could address the issue, said Dr Saxena. While training more mental health professionals could be a long-term solution, offering training to ground level health workers could help, he said. “Asha workers and community health workers can be provided brief training. This will help identify those with mental health illness.”

Dr Saxena said “Taking mental healthcare from ‘mental hospitals’ to the primary health centres and the general hospitals must be done.”

Even as professional care is of great importance, he said having patients admitted to nursing homes or old age homes is not a solution.

 “Many mental health institutes violate basic human rights. There is scarcity of food, clothing and people are also isolated. The process of discharge and admission is tedious, forcing many to stay back at the hospital even when there is no need for it,” Dr Saxena added.