Q) There is a continuous lack of awareness, poor coverage of mental health services and a huge stigma attached to mental disorders in India. In this context discuss the challenges and concerns associated with mental health in the country.

Why this question?

Issue of current importance

Key demand of the Question 

One must discuss the challenges and concerns associated with mental health in the country.


Discuss – This is an all-encompassing directive – you have to debate on paper by going through the details of the issues concerned by examining each one of them. You have to give reasons for both for and against arguments.


Give an overview of the context of the question.


In the first part, highlight the challenges and concerns associated with mental health in the country. Mention some key statistics related to it.

In the next part, mention some policies by the government regarding mental health.


Conclude with suggestions.

Model Answer


Mental health is a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. WHO estimated that globally over 450 million people suffer from mental disorders. A study by the India State-level Disease Burden Initiative published in The Lancet Psychiatry found that 197.3 million Indians (one in every seven) were suffering from mental disorders in 2017.

Issues related to mental healthcare in India

  1. Lack of Resources- Low proportion of mental health workforce in India (per 100,000 population) includes psychiatrists (0.3), nurses (0.12), psychologists (0.07) and social workers (0.07). Moreover, the government allocates just 0.5% of the health budget (which is already low) in this sector.
  2. Stigma- Mental health illness is often considered as Taboo that leads to reluctance on part of family members to seek diagnosis & treatment for the patient. Moreover, in the middle- and lower-class families such issues are often neglected.
  3. Affordability and accessibility issues- Due to inadequate number of mental health caretakers, such service is often concentrated in urban areas and is also expensive.
  4. Disproportionate impact- It is the poor, dispossessed and marginalized who bear the greatest burden of mental health problems, but historically their sufferings are dismissed as a natural extension of their social and economic conditions.
  5. Violations of human rights have been reported in mental asylums and also at homes and places of traditional healing. In India, mental hospitals still practice certain obscure practices that violate human rights. 
  6. Further poor infrastructure such as closed structures, a lack of maintenance, unclean toilets and sleeping areas, etc. clearly violate the basic human right to a life with dignity.
  7. Treatment gap- According to estimates nearly 92% of the people who need mental health care and treatment do not have access to any form of mental health care. Moreover, poor awareness about the symptoms of mental illness, social stigma and abandonment of mentally ill, especially old and destitute, leads to social isolation and reluctance on part of family members to seek treatment.

Policies for Mental Health in India

  • In 1982, the government of India launched the National Mental Health Programme (NMHP) to improve the status of mental health in India. It has 3 components- Treatment of Mentally ill, Rehabilitation and Prevention and promotion of positive mental health.
  • The Mental Health Care Act (MHCA) 2017 came into force in 2018 to meet the requirements of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which India ratified in 2007.
  • KIRAN: The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has launched a 24/7 toll-free helpline to provide support to people facing anxiety, stress, depression, suicidal thoughts and other mental health concerns.
  • Manodarpan Initiative: It is an initiative of the Ministry of Education under Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan. It is aimed to provide psychosocial support to students, family members and teachers for their mental health and well-being during the times of Covid-19.
  • Mental Health Care Act, 2017- patients now have the Right to make an Advance Directive about how to be treated or not to be treated for the illness during a mental health situation. Also, a person shall have the right to appoint a nominated representative to take on his/her behalf, all health-related decisions like: Right to access mental health care, Right to free & quality services, Right to get free medicines, etc.

Way Forward

  • Stigma and Awareness need to be addressed in parallel in order to tackle the burden of mental illness. Educational and awareness programmes should be started for mental healthcare.
  • The budgetary spending on mental health should be increased.
  • Mental issues should be covered under various health schemes of the government.
  • Increasing the human resources involved in the mental healthcare sector.
  • Revamping the infrastructure and surveillance mechanisms in mental healthcare centres