Taking mental health seriously and bridging the treatment gap

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The severe dearth of psychiatrists in the State would be addressed to an extent as more psychiatrists and other mental health professionals are expected to be trained at the recently-inaugurated Centre of Excellence (CoE) at Institute of Mental Health (IMH), Erragadda.

Members of associations comprising psychiatrists said there are only 150 to 175 registered psychiatrists in the State which has a population of over 3.5 crore.

At any point of time, specialists said, at least 10% of population or 35 lakh people are in need of psychiatric services for anxiety disorders, phobia, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), learning disorders, autism, conduct disorders and dementia among others. However, only about 175 psychiatrists practice here.

“One psychiatrist can check a maximum of 50 people in a day. Through the CoE, we will train psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses and social workers. We have written to the State government to give permission to start courses for them,” said IMH Superintendent M. Umashankar.

If permission is granted, the courses could start from the next academic year. Prior to that, faculty has to be recruited. Four postgraduate seats in psychiatry course would be added to the centre.

The CoE was inaugurated by Health Minister Eatala Rajender on December 14. The Central government has sanctioned ₹5.28 crore as first instalment to the centre.

President-elect of Asian Federation of Psychiatric Associations, G. Prasad Rao said some districts in Telangana, including erstwhile Medak, some parts of Bhadrachalam and Nagarkurnool, do not even have mental health specialists.

“Young psychiatrists should go to the districts and deliver effective services,” Dr Prasad Rao said.

Overcoming addiction

A drug treatment centre (DTC), which was also inaugurated at Institute of Mental Health (IMH), Erragadda, has a dedicated out-patient clinic to provide services to patients with substance abuse problems.

“A medical officer, social workers and nurses will be available at the DTC. The Central government will provide drugs such as methadone which is used in treatment of narcotics addiction. It has to be consumed in presence of the staff,” said IMH Superintendent M. Umashankar.

He said that they have also started an OCD clinic, which will be open on Wednesdays. Only one unit of specialists will offer counselling and behaviour therapy.

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