In a concerning trend, mental health-related deaths in Maharashtra have been on the rise since 2019, according to data from the state health department.
While the year 2019 saw 26 such deaths, a significant increase was observed in 2022, with the number reaching 1073.
This alarming surge has prompted the state to take proactive steps to address the issue.
Changing Causes of Mental Health-Related Deaths
In 2019, all 26 reported mental health-related deaths were attributed to schizophrenia and delusional disorders.
However, in the subsequent years, there has been a shift in the leading causes of these deaths.
Mental and behavioral disorders due to psychoactive substance use have emerged as a major contributor to the growing death toll.
In 2020, out of 1171 reported deaths, 530 were linked to psychoactive substance use. In 2021, 740 out of 1190 deaths had the same association.
Even in 2022, 636 out of 1073 deaths were related to psychoactive substance use, underscoring the need for urgent intervention and support for individuals grappling with substance abuse.
State’s Three-Level Approach to Address Mental Health Crisis
To combat this concerning trend, the Maharashtra state health department has adopted a three-level approach to strengthen mental health services and support individuals in need. This comprehensive strategy includes:
1. Strengthening Mental Health Services at District Hospitals
In all 36 district hospitals across the state, dedicated teams have been established, comprising psychiatrists, social workers, clinical psychologists, and psychiatric nurses.
These teams are tasked with providing outreach services to various community health centers, rural hospitals, and sub-district hospitals.
2. Training MBBS Doctors at Primary Healthcare Centers (PHCs)
The state is equipping primary healthcare centers (PHCs) with the ability to conduct psychiatric evaluations by training MBBS doctors.
This training focuses on diagnosing common psychiatric illnesses such as anxiety and depression, with the goal of enhancing productivity.
3. Tele-MANAS – Specialized Psychiatric Teleconsultation Service
Maharashtra has taken significant strides in providing accessible mental health support. Tele-MANAS, a specialized psychiatric teleconsultation service, has been launched, receiving commendation for being the second largest service of its kind in the country.
With over 30,000 unique calls conducted to date, it has become a vital lifeline for individuals seeking assistance.
Assisted Home Services for Mental Health in the Pipeline
Recognizing the need for continued support beyond clinical settings, the state health department has submitted a proposal for assisted home services for mental health.
Pending budget clearance from the central government, this initiative aims to involve PHCs, community health workers, auxiliary nurses, and doctors in providing follow-up care to individuals in their homes.
This approach acknowledges that mental health care should extend beyond the confines of healthcare facilities.
Expert Perspective on Mental Health-Related Deaths
Dr. Avinash Desousa, former president of the Bombay Psychiatric Society (BPS), emphasizes that psychiatric conditions themselves are typically not the direct cause of death.
Instead, it is often the neglect of self-care that leads to fatal outcomes. Dr. Desousa commended the steps taken by the state government to address mental health issues, acknowledging their proactive stance.
He stressed the need for an adequate number of healthcare professionals in both private and public healthcare sectors to effectively tackle the rising mental health cases.
Upgrading Mental Health Facilities
In addition to the comprehensive approach to mental health services, the state health department is also focusing on upgrading existing mental health facilities.
Among these efforts, the Thane Mental Hospital, which was in a dilapidated state, is set to undergo renovation and upgrade.
The government has also sanctioned the construction of two new mental health hospitals, one in Kolhapur and another in Jalna. These facilities aim to provide state-of-the-art care to those in need.
The Thane Mental Hospital, currently the second-largest mental health facility in Maharashtra with 1850 beds (1050 for men and 800 for women), will be transformed to offer even more comprehensive services.
Upon completion of the renovation work, it will house 3000 beds and include an academic block.
The introduction of an MPhil course in clinical psychology will further enhance the level of care provided.
This academic block is expected to benefit all departments of psychiatrists in the five medical colleges in Mumbai.
In conclusion, the alarming increase in mental health-related deaths in Maharashtra has prompted a multi-pronged approach to tackle the crisis head-on.
The state’s commitment to strengthening mental health services, training healthcare professionals, and providing teleconsultation services signifies a vital step towards addressing the mental health needs of its residents.
Additionally, the plans for assisted home services and the upgrades to mental health facilities demonstrate a holistic approach to supporting individuals struggling with mental health issues.
As the state endeavors to combat this concerning trend, its efforts are set to make a significant impact on the mental well-being of its citizens.