HC took note of a petition filed by a minor who highlighted the near absence of professional help for students
The Delhi High Court, on Monday, issued notices to the State government on a petition highlighting increased stress levels among adolescents due to disruption of routine, parental anxiety, family violence and home confinement during Covid-19, and asked for the implementation of the Mental Healthcare Act 2017 at schools and colleges.
‘No steps taken’
The petitioners, through an RTI, discovered that no specific steps have been taken in Delhi to implement the Mental Healthcare Act, which entails appointing mental health professionals in educational institutions to assist students, nor has a survey been undertaken to assess the prevalence and incidence of mental diseases in the Capital.
The public interest petition, filed by advocate Rahul Kumar, on behalf of a young girl Devina Singh through her father, cited the National Mental Health Survey 2015-16 conducted by NIMHANS Bengaluru, to underline that while nearly 15 per cent of the adult population in India needs interventions for one or more mental health issues, the rising incidence of the same among both adolescents and elderly are of serious concern, especially among the urban population.
“Experts see a growing incidence of mental illness which needs urgent attention… Over 90 per cent remain untreated There is less than one psychiatrist available for every four lakh people.
“The scene is worse in rural areas. India’s allocation for mental healthcare is less than one per cent of the health Budget,” the petitioner submitted, quoting legislative Note No 2/LN/Ref./June/2016 to the Mental Health Care Bill 2013. She pointed out that the treatment gap in even severe mental disorders is approximately 50 per cent. In case of Common Mental Disorders, it is over 90 per cent.
Quoting a WHO study, the petitioner pointed out that India tops the list of countries with the greatest burden of mental and behaviour disorders, but societal conservatism creates barriers, especially for children, in seeking help.
They also attributed the under-treatment for mental ailments to lack of awareness and literacy and also social stigma attached to mental diseases in India.
“Numerous empirical studies have found a direct correlation between academic stress, performance and sound mental health. Such issues among students continue to be unaddressed and unattended, which have a bearing on their outlook, performance in school and careers in life. It is observed that there are no comprehensive assessment, evaluation, and diagnostic protocols of mental health of students at school levels, in contrast with the physical health, where assessment and follow-up is done at periodic intervals,” the petitioner submitted.