The purpose of the workshop was to elicit the views of States and other stakeholders on existing gaps and challenges under the District Mental Health Programme.
NITI Aayog organized a national workshop on “Strengthening Mental Health Services and Care in India” at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore on 9 January 2024, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and the Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Karnataka.
The purpose of the workshop was to elicit the views of States and other stakeholders on existing gaps and challenges under the District Mental Health Programme (DMHP) and also to learn from the States, their best practices, which can further be replicated in other States/UTs with their own contextualization.
The one-day national-level workshop was chaired by Member (Health), NITI Aayog, Dr V K Paul. Those present included chairman and president, National Medical Commission, Dr B N Gangadhar; economic adviser, MoHFW, Indrani Kaushal; Director, NIMHANS, Dr Pratima Murthy; principal secretary (Health and Family Welfare) of the Karnataka government, Anil Kumar T K; senior officials from MoHFW, DGHS, ICMR, and States/UTs, as well as sectoral and technical experts from WHO India, UNICEF, and development partners who have been contributing in the space of primary healthcare and mental health. The workshop was conducted as a part of the NITI–State workshop series, an initiative under the State Support Mission (SSM).
In the inaugural session, NITI Aayog made a brief presentation to set the context of the workshop, which was followed by a detailed presentation by MoHFW, highlighting the present scenario of the National and District Mental Health Program and the upcoming proposed strategies to strengthen its implementation. Principal Secretary (Health), Government of Karnataka gave a detailed presentation on “Moving beyond the Bellary Model of District Mental Health Program: Success story of Karnataka.” The presentation highlighted the various initiatives being undertaken by the state of Karnataka in addressing mental health concerns. The technical sessions concluded with a detailed presentation by Director, NIMHANS, elaborating the challenges, experiences and way forward under the recently introduced component of Tele-MANAS.
The rest of the workshop was divided into four sessions, with a panel discussion and three interactive roundtable sessions, which focused on addressing challenges, sharing current initiatives and best practices in States/UTs, and paving the way forward for a holistic mental healthcare ecosystem in India. Participants in the sessions included senior leadership from MoHFW, National Medical Commission, States/UTs, sectoral experts from NIMHANS, TISS, and IBHAS, as well as representatives from WHO India, UNICEF, and key development partners.
The delegates brought forth views on strengthening the District Mental Health Programme, especially with respect to infrastructure, HR, training, treatment and IEC; developing and scaling-up Primary Mental Healthcare through Ayushman Aarogya Mandirs; and rights of persons with mental illness, including reintegration, rehabilitation and empowerment. Participants from 31 States and UTs shared views from the ground and immediate challenges that need to be addressed.
In the closing session, Dr Paul reiterated the opportunity to build and reimagine a new national mental healthcare programme that would address the huge unmet need for treatment of mental illnesses and disorders. He said that the way forward is to develop an overarching and holistic vision for inclusive and efficient service delivery, adopt an integrative approach by converging aspects of traditional medicine, and augment the mental healthcare workforce by optimizing post-graduate seats in psychiatry, psychiatric social work, and clinical psychology.