- Finance Minister announces a tele-counseling program in Union Budget (2022–23)
- This National Tele Mental Health Program provides mental healthcare via a free 24×7 helpline
In a landmark move, the Finance Minister of India, Nirmala Sitharaman, announced a 24×7 free tele-counseling program for mental health.
The Union Budget (2022–23) addressed the emergency mental health crisis that accompanied the Covid-19 pandemic in India. A large number of mental and physical disorders were recognized. Specifically, it was felt that mental health care is plagued by lack of access to therapy and medication and poor awareness about mental well-being.
The National Tele Mental Health Program comprises a network of 23 tele-mental health centers. Support will be provided, via a 24×7 helpline, by trained mental health professionals for different target groups which include children, adults, the elderly, women, and health workers.
Acting as the head center is the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS). It has been providing tele-consultations for years. The International Institute of Information Technology-Bangalore (IIITB) will provide technological support. It will help connect various mental healthcare services and wellness centers under Ayushman Bharat and e-Sanjeevani system.
The program is instituted with the mission to provide affordable and accessible mental health care with “standard, evidence-based, and culturally appropriate” tools. It will bridge the gap in access to mental healthcare (especially in rural areas). It will also help achieve India’s SDG target 3.4.2. Aligned closely with Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission, it will help India achieve WHO’s (2019–23) Special Initiative for Mental Health.
“By prioritizing mental health, the finance minister has taken a very important step which is the need of the hour,” said Dr Samir Parikh of Fortis Healthcare.