New Delhi: Depression is twice as common among Indian women as men, but the number of men seeking treatment for depression is much higher than women.
“The ratio of men or boys seeking treatment for mental illnesses is almost the double of women. The reasons are many, but most conspicuous is that we live in a male-dominated society where women are relegated at the back,” says Dr Rajesh Sagar, professor of psychiatry, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
Apart from social reasons, lack of awareness is also seen as a major impediment in reaching out to patients, especially with the severe lack manpower.
After a National-level survey in 2002, certain norms were fixed by the government, including doctor-patient ratio. One psychiatrist, 1.5 clinical psychologist and two psychiatry social workers were considered per lakh population, and one nurse for a ward of 10 psychiatry beds.
India has about 0.3% trained psychiatrists as opposed to 1% requirement and 0.7% clinical psychologists, when the need is for at least 1.5%.
“The government has taken some significant steps under the National Mental Health Programme to generate trained mental health specialists, with sanctioning 39 Post-graduate seats across India in various medical institutions, for which 1 crore per institute is also sanctioned,” said Luv Agrawal, joint secretary, Union health ministry.
About 3-5% of country’s population suffers from depression, of which 2% would have severe form of depression. One in 20 persons suffer from current state of depression, and depression is a significant risk factor for suicide, with nearly 10-15% of depressed patients successfully commit suicide.
“Globally 322 million people are living with depression, of which 56 million are in India alone . We have 2012 figures for suicide in India, which say 2,60,000 people killed themselves,” says Henk Bekedam, World Health Organisation representative to India.
Depression is ranked by WHO as the single largest contributor to global disability (7.5% of all years lived with disability in 2015); anxiety disorders are ranked 6th (3.4%). Depression is also the major contributor to suicide deaths, which number close to 800 000 per year.
This year’s World Health Day theme is depression, to generate adequate awareness about the condition that is often ignored or dismissed as no big deal.
Depression is preventable, say experts.