Psychiatry as a PG Course Must Be Implemented In Every Medical College: Madras HC

Psychiatry as a PG Course Must Be Implemented In Every Medical College: Madras HC
05.10.2021 | Education News | EduLegaL  | |
The Madras High Court in K.R Raja Vs the State of Tamil Nadu & Ors. -W. P 16484 of 2020- while hearing the petitioner’s plea to setup a medical wing in Trichy Central Prison or Madurai Central Prison exclusively to provide mental health care facilities to the prisoners with mental illness and with round the clock availability of treatment as per Mental Health Care Act, 2017, commented on the severe lack of psychiatrists in the country. The court ruled that psychiatrists are the need of the hour and it is essential that psychiatry as a subject should be introduced in every medical college.
The division bench of Justice N Kirubakaran and Justice B Pugalendhi stated:

“There is acute shortage of psychiatrist and child psychiatrist and therefore, every medical college should have Department of Psychiatry and should have Psychiatry PG course, so that more number of Psychiatrists would be produced. The NIMHANS has reported that there are about 1 psychiatrist for 133000 population, whereas the Mental Health Report of 2003 recommended 1 psychiatrist and 1.5 psychologists per 1,00,000.”

The Court expressed its concern over the country’s mental health and pointed to the data collected by the World Health Organization. According to WHO, 7.5% of the country’s population is suffering from some form of mental illness and by the end of the year (2020) the number may even climb to 20% of the total population. The court opined that the taboo/ stigma attached to mental illness prevents people from seeking help. The Court also indicated to the absence of sufficient budgetary allocation and awareness programs conducted by the government under the Mental Health Care Act, 2017.
The Bench declared:

“Though the Government recognised the prevalence of mental disorders on a large scale and the Union of India passed the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 with an aim to provide the mental healthcare services for the persons with mental illness and to ensure that these persons have a right to life with dignity by not being discriminated against or harassed, however, as stated above, there is no sufficient budgetary allocation for mental healthcare which is required to be increased as one among seven persons is suffering from mental health disorders.”

The Court further revealed the abject scarcity of mental health force in India. It is stated that there is a shortage of 18,000 psychiatrists in our country and that there is a need for about 2700 new psychiatrists every year. That apart, only 49 child psychiatrists are there to take care of children of the entire country. Thus, there is a desperate need for more psychiatrists in the country. Setting up psychiatry departments and introducing it as a subject in every medical college may help in encouraging more doctors to take up psychiatry as a subject.
Moreover, the court remarked on the need for more Mental Health Research Institutes, Mental Hospitals and rehabilitation centers. With increasing cases of mental health disorders, it is necessary to have a Psychiatry Department in every District Headquarters Hospital and a Psychiatrist in every Taluk Level Hospital, the Court stated.

“There is only one research Centre in the country, for mental health, called “National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences” (NIMHANS) at Bengaluru, which is a dedicated medical institution established in 1925. No such premier institution for mental health has been established after 1925. Every zone should have an institution like, NIMHANS. Similarly, psychiatry is not a subject in all the medical colleges and hence, psychiatry should be introduced in every medical college as the requirement of psychiatrists is more. Similarly, only a negligible number of mental hospitals are stated to be functioning in the country and for 130 Crore of population, more number of mental health care centres have to be established by the Central Government as well as by all the State Governments.”

In conclusion, the Madras HC directed the Central Government to implement the above plans in the interest of the public. The Court reiterated that without a ‘comprehensive coordinate action plan’ it will be impossible to address the lacunae in the current implementation and give proper mental health care to the masses.
Nidhi Nair | Research Intern | EduLegaL

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