Data shows rise in mental health related deaths in the state
All 26 deaths in 2019 were due to schizophrenia and delusional disorders. But in subsequent years, mental and behavioural disorders due to psychoactive substance use constituted a major reason for death
Mumbai: Mental health related deaths in Maharashtra have been increasing since 2019, according to data with the state health department. The number of deaths in 2019 was 26, while in 2022, the number stood at 1073.
All 26 deaths in 2019 were due to schizophrenia and delusional disorders. But in subsequent years, mental and behavioural disorders due to psychoactive substance use constituted a major reason for death. Out of 1171 deaths in 2020, 530 were related to psychoactive substance use. In 2021, 740 out of 1190 deaths were related to psychoactive substance use, whereas in 2022, 636 out of 1073 deaths were related to psychoactive substance use.
Dr Swapnil Lale, assistant director, health services said the state has decided to step-up mental health services by embracing a three-level approach – strengthening mental health services at district hospitals, training MBBS doctors at primary healthcare centres (PHCs) to conduct psychiatric evaluations, and providing free mental health services through tele-MANAS.
“We have set up mental health services in all 36 district hospitals, wherein each district hospital has a psychiatrist, a social worker, a clinical psychologist and a nurse trained in psychiatry. Their job is to undertake outreach services in various community health centres, rural hospitals, and sub-district hospitals,” said Dr Lale.
These teams also train MBBS doctors at PHCs for psychiatric evaluations. “This is to diagnose common psychiatric illnesses like anxiety and depression. The focus is on common and mild psychiatric illnesses with the aim of improving productivity. Out of 1930 PHCs, we have converted 1670 PHCs into MahaShakti clinics,” said Dr Lale.
He stated that they had completed more than 30,000 unique calls till date.
“It is a specialised psychiatric teleconsultation service launched last year and we are proud to be the second in the country in terms of number of calls,” he said.
The state health department is also planning to start assisted home services for mental health.
“We have submitted a proposal to the centre and are awaiting budget clearance. We felt the need to have assisted home services for mental health as after going home, many need home services. We will be involving the PHCs, community health workers, auxiliary nurses, and doctors who will be visiting homes for follow-ups,” said Dr Lale.
Dr Avinash Desousa, former president of Bombay Psychiatric Society (BPS) said it is good that the state has bifurcated the mental health related deaths.
“It is never the psychiatric condition per say that is a cause of death. I can’t say someone died of schizophrenia but it is generally the neglect of self that happens which leads to the death scenario,” he said.
Appreciating the steps taken by the state government on mental health issues, Dr Desousa said they have been proactive. “Mental health cases have gone up over the last few years. We need enough healthcare professionals in private and public health care,” he said.
The health department is also upgrading the mental health hospital in Thane.
“The state government recently sanctioned two new mental health hospitals – one in Kolhapur and another in Jalna. It also approved renovating and upgrading the Thane Mental Hospital, which was in a dilapidated state,” said Dr Lale.
Maharashtra has four mental hospitals out of which Thane is the second largest with 1850 beds – 1,050 for men and 800 for women. All four hospitals were built in the pre-independence era. Dr Lale said it would take 4-5 years to complete the renovation work.
“The renovated mental hospital at Thane will have 3000 beds and it will be on the lines of NIMHANS. We are planning to have an academic block too and start an MPhil course in clinical psychology. The academic block will benefit all the departments of psychiatrists of the five medical colleges in Mumbai too,” he said.