India-US agreement on mental health is highly praiseworthy

Delhi Feb 27, 2020, 02.43 PM(IST) Written By: Aditi Gautam

Trump, Modi during joint press conference at Hyderabad House in New Delhi Photograph:( AFP )

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To tackle depression, loneliness and anxiety, it's important to deal with the illness at home, offices, schools and colleges.

During US President Donald Trump's visit to India on February 24 and 25, both countries signed three agreements in health and oil sectors.

In a noteworthy gesture, the health departments of both countries sealed a pact to deal with mental health challenges through innovative measures.

The agreement will enable India to learn from the experience of the US in treating mental health issues. It will also facilitate greater access to traditional Indian medicines and therapies to treat mental health challenges in America.

World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that more than 300 million people suffer from depression across the world. It has further stated that there is one death by suicide every 40 seconds and each year more than 800,000 people end their own lives. 

Furthermore, the National Mental Health Survey, 2016, conducted across 12 Indian states, has stated that 150 million persons are in need of mental health interventions and care.

According to a report, the US suicide rate increased on average by about 1 per cent a year from 2000 through 2006 and by 2 per cent a year from 2006 through 2016.

It's heartening to see that governments, people and organisations across the globe have acknowledged the challenges related to mental health. In 2018, the UK government had appointed Loneliness Minister for cross-government work on loneliness.

Moreover, fund allocations also have to be increased. Funds allocated to the National Mental Health Programme were not increased in the Union Budget for FY 2020. It was brought down to Rs 40 crore from Rs 50 crore in FY2018. 

Also, more trained psychiatrists and psychologists should be made available at government health care centres to meet WHO prescribed norms so that people can avail mental health treatment at a cheaper cost.

Mental illness, like any other disease, does not discriminate. It affects all age groups, children, youth, elderly people. To tackle depression, loneliness and anxiety, it's important to deal with the illness at home, offices, schools and colleges.

Other countries should also learn from this collaboration between the world's two largest democracies to deal with mental health challenges, and come together to tackle mental illness.

Governments must, through there policies including programmes, educate people and organisations about the effects of mental health problems. Globally, we need to increase our efforts to tackle mental health problems.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)