Media Announcement: Statement on Budget 2020

The National Academy of Psychology (NAoP) calls upon the Government of India to increase the expenditure on mental health to Rs fifty thousand crore in the Budget 2020. While the Government has brought progressive legislations for the welfare of persons with mental illness, including Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, the abysmally low investment in training of mental health professionals and building facilities in all parts of the country has led to an enormous treatment gap of over 90%. The mental health expenditure by Union Government is less than 0.5% of its total health budget, which itself is marginally above 1% of India’s Gross Domestic Product.

As per the National Mental Health Survey, 2015-16 — commissioned by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and conducted by NIMHANS, Bengaluru — 10.6% of India’s population suffers from a psychological disorder and lifetime prevalence in the surveyed population was 13.7%. With continuing urbanization, the prevalence of psychological disorders is expected to rise. The increased disease burden not only leads to a surge in health costs, it also results in loss of work days and decline in economic productivity of the nation. 

Improving psychological wellness is also an objective of UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDG Target 3.4 seeks to “reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being” by 2030 and the Target 3.5 aims to “strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol.”

The extremely low Government spending on mental health in India has led to neglect of provision of services to people with psychological disorders. There is an immediate necessity of a significant public sector investment in improving mental health services at the level of primary health centres, training and employment of psychologists, research, and creating awareness about psychological illnesses. Therefore, it is the need of the hour that the Government outlay on mental health grows multi-fold from a miniscule Rs 40 crore allocation to National Mental Health Programme in Budget 2019-20. Moreover, for better effectiveness and to make the sector a priority of the Government, a Minister of State in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare should be in-charge of the mental health matters. 

We take this opportunity also to reiterate the longstanding demand of an independent, statutory National Psychology Council to oversee and regulate the education, training and practice of psychology in India. A recommendation to establish such an authority was also made by UGC Expert Committee on Model Courses in Psychology in 2016. The narrow mandate and focus of the Rehabilitation Council of India has led to the neglect of the Clinical Psychology discipline. Similarly, inadequate representation of psychologists in the proposed Allied and Healthcare Council of India would lead to an exclusive focus on medical and related specialties resulting in negligence of students and practitioners from ‘Behavioural Health Sciences’ category. Hence, the Government should immediately bring a Bill to establish the National Psychology Council in the interests of the public and the professionals.