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Budget 2022 | FM announces 23 national tele-mental health centers

Budget 2022: As the lack of quality mental health services in India has been a major concern even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the announcement on setting up dedicated centers to address the problem across the country comes as a welcome move.

February 01, 2022 / 12:27 PM IST

The Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her budget speech on Tuesday announced a national tele-mental health program, underlining that the Covid-19 pandemic has accentuated mental health problems in people across all age groups.

To enhance the access to quality mental health counseling and care services, a national tele-mental health program will be launched, which will include a network of 23 tele-mental health centers of excellence with the National Institute of Mental health and Neurosciences, announced Sitharaman.

The project will also be supported by the International Institute of Information Technology, Bengaluru.

“An open platform for the national digital health ecosystem will be rolled out,” the finance minister also added. “It will consist of digital registries of health providers and health facilities, consent framework and universal access to health facilities.”

Many public health experts have been pointing out the problems created by a parallel pandemic of mental health issues that has marred the country over the last two years, along with the COVID-19 pandemic.

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A report by the National Crime Record Bureau in November last year, for example, had shown that suicides in India increased by an alarming 10 percent in 2020 during the pandemic and nearly 400 Indians died by suicide each day in 2020.

The situation, experts believe has not been much better even prior to the pandemic as the National Mental Health Survey in 2016 had found out that about 70-80 percent of those with mental illness in India received no treatment.

There have been concerns that the lack of access to mental health services may have been dramatically increased during the pandemic years.
Sumi Sukanya Dutta
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