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PHFI launches a new Centre for Mental Health

Sep 07, 2012

PHFI has launched a Centre for Mental Health (CMH) under the aegis of the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), to address gaps in the area of Mental, Neurological and Substance use (MNS) disorders.

The Centre will be a collaborative network of institutions in South Asia, with the shared goals of promoting research, building capacity and advocacy aimed at reducing inequalities in access to care and health outcomes for people affected by MNS disorders.

Present on the occasion were Dr Syeda Hameed, Member, Planning Commission, Govt. of India, Shri Keshav Desiraju, Special Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Govt. of India and Prof. K. Srinath Reddy, President, PHFI, along with experts, senior bureaucrats, Embassy/High Commission Officials, NGO’s, academicians, scientists and researchers.

The Centre will be headed by Prof Vikram Patel, who is an Adjunct Professor at PHFI, Joint Director of the Centre for Global Mental Health, Professor of International Mental Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and founder of the mental health NGO Sangath in Goa.

Outlining the vision for the Centre for Mental Health (CMH), Prof. Vikram Patel said “We now know about the enormous toll of mental disorders in India, and why they are a public health priority as well as the treatments that can transform the quality of life and affect the family. Now we need to build capacity and evidence in India’s national health system to make these treatments available, assessable and affordable to all who need it. This is precisely our mission at the Centre for Mental Health at the Public Health Foundation of India”.

Mental, Neurological and Substance use disorders (MNS) are amongst the leading causes of the burden of disease globally. Notable examples of MNS disorders, in terms of the burden of disease, include: Autism, Mental retardation and Epilepsy in childhood; Depression, Psychoses and Alcohol use disorders in adulthood; and Dementia in old age.

There is a huge disparity between this burden and the availability of appropriate mental health services especially in the South Asian region. Moreover, most services are concentrated in urban areas.  There are also instances of human rights violations of patients with mental health disorders in the form of restrictions to their freedom in their homes, in mental hospitals and in traditional healing centres. It is imperative to generate knowledge and capacity to address this burden and to reduce inequalities in access to care and health outcomes for people affected by MNS disorders.

In India there has been renewed interest for mental health care, with the completion of the process of revising the Indian Mental Health Care Act by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Moreover, a Mental Health Policy Group was established by the Government in May 2011 with the goal of redesigning the National Mental Health Program and writing India's first National Mental Health Policy.

Furthermore, some recent developments at the international level, such as the launch of the Movement for Global Mental Health, the Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health Initiative, and the release of the World Health Organization ‘mhGAP’ (Mental Health Gap Action Program) report offering evidence based treatment guidelines for MNS disorders, have greatly galvanized the support for the field of mental health globally. In fact, the Government of India proposed a resolution at the WHO Executive Board meeting in 2012 to develop a global mental health plan, which was approved unanimously by the World Health Assembly in May 2012.

In his address Dr K Srinath Reddy, President PHFI said, “The opportunity for a Centre for Mental Health (CMH), which can build on these developments to promote research, capacity building and advocacy in this discipline, has never been more promising or urgent. Public Health Foundation of India has already recognized mental health as one of the priority research areas and had constituted a Mental Health Special Interest Group in February 2009. Establishment of CMH will further bolster this initiative and will be instrumental in fulfilling the mandate of PHFI and aim to make PHFI the leading institution in the region in this discipline.”

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