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India faces challenges of poor primary infrastructure for mental health and low psychiatrist-patient ratio

Nandita Vijay, Bengaluru
Saturday, March 25, 2023, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

India faces the challenges of poor primary mental health infrastructure and low psychiatrist-patient ratio. Though the country’s Mental Healthcare Act 2017 intends to ensure that mentally ill persons have a right to live life with dignity by not being discriminated against or harassed, people have not been educated on mental health and the stigma associated with mental ailments remains high.

The primary infrastructure for mental health in India, which are acute care hospitals and rehabs, is lacking and the country is battling with only 0.75 psychiatrists for every 100,000 patients. There is an urgent need to address this demand-supply mismatch, said Vidit Bahri, co-founder & chief growth officer, Sukoon.

Over the last 3 years, our data shows that Indians have become more forthcoming when it comes to seeking help for mental ailments. As per a recent survey, there is a 38% increase in respondents from 2018 to 2021, who said they would seek mental health treatment for themselves if required, he added.

There is a void in legacy mental health infrastructure and services in India. Investment in mental health is a complex subject in India and there is a need to invest in both demand and supply side aspects. The obvious answer is to fund organizations and individuals solving complex problems in the field.  However, on the supply side, we need more funding in schools and colleges that are grooming mental health professionals for the future, Bahri told Pharmabiz.

With a mere 0.75 psychiatrists per 100,000 people which put huge pressure on the system, the situation is complex. Clearly, technology has a role to play. The use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) for early detection, robotics for continued care, and chatbots for support has been proven to work globally. We must work on increasing the number of mental health professionals through more seats in colleges etc, he said.

Globally there is considerable innovation for psychiatric drug discovery. Companies like MindMed, ATAI Life Sciences, and Compass Pathways have been working on interventions for PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), acute depression, and anxiety amongst others. Hopefully, once these compounds go through all the necessary tests, they will be available in India as well.

Companies like MindMed, ATAI Live Sciences, and Compass pathways are some of the companies leading the charge in terms of new drug discovery in psychiatry. 

Now Sukoon aims to address this gap by expanding its specialized services in mental health across India. We provide such patients a safe environment for inpatient interventions in addition to offering them outpatient services with our multidisciplinary team of psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, counsellors, and vocational therapists. Our facilities are designed making sure it reflects safety, comfort, and care.

In November 2022, Sukoon raised India’s first and largest round of funding for inpatient mental health. We are working to galvanize the mental health ecosystem with an immediate expansion of 40 centres nationally with investments into digital therapeutics, robotics, new equipment, and interventions, said Bahri.


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