The constant state of conflict situation in the state in the 80s and 90s had adversely affected the mental health of the general population to such an extent that generations have been going through a collective trauma besides depression and hopelessness at the individual level.
Corruption at every level as compared to high unemployment rate and the prevalence of drug addiction among the young have added to the general malaise. The impact of Covid pandemic on mental health among the general population has increased manifold. Manipur Health Minister Dr Sapam Ranjan Singh had some time ago said that the rate of mental health issues in Manipur is higher than the national average while the rate of treatment is extremely low at just around 20 per cent of the total population who suffered from mental health issues are being treated according to a national report.
According to experts, Manipur is among the states with the highest number of mental health problems caused by socio-economic issues. As the state has been grappling with the problem of high substance abuse, 23 per cent of the total population have mental disorders due to drug addiction.
According to a survey conducted by the state, 22.4 per cent of total population consume alcohol, 3.74 per cent use cannabis, 14.22 per cent use opioid, 7.73 per cent use sedative items, 40 to 50 per cent use smokeless tobacco, 20-25 per cent use smoke tobacco. Another expert said, around 3 lakh and 2 lakh people of Manipur have suffered from depression and anxiety respectively in the year 2015.
Noted Psychiatrist Dr RK Lenin of RIMS said that the impact of drug menace is many which includes physical, psychological, financial, occupational, law and order, etc. As numbers of drug users are increasing each day, there is a need for strong intervention from every walk of life to eradicate this menace from the state.
Dr Lenin also opined that the number of patients with mental health problems will reduce with proper medical attention and treatment. On the other hand, he also sees a ray of light that today people in the state are speaking about mental health more than ever before. Yes, it is indeed a good sign. Besides treatment and medical attention, the overall attitude of the society towards people with mental health problems is also of prime importance.
People in general see mental illness as a form of madness and thus stigma comes into the picture. So, family members and relatives either tend to ignore the symptoms or feel ashamed about it. We have been writing about the need for a dedicated mental hospital in the state for quite some time and now the state also needs to work overtime to deal with the problem of stigma and discrimination. That is where the role of the Social Welfare department becomes important. Instead of lip service, a widespread awareness campaign needs to be undertaken in the state.
On the other hand, the discipline of Psychiatry has become all the more important in the state. Health Minister Dr S Ranjan said that the state government is looking into this acute shortage of psychiatrists while also adding that there is a need to find out the reason for not opting psychiatry by MBBS passed out students. The reason is not far, as most MBBS graduates go for specialisations which are lucrative. It is just not because these medical disciplines are lucrative, but they were the most sought-after specialists in those days.
Somewhere on the way, the absence of an adequate number of Psychiatrists or Clinical Psychologists began to be felt in the state. And doctors slowly began to opt for Psychiatry in MD and still we are short of doctors in this state to match the ever-rising cases of mental health problems. A few years back, RIMS opened a separate department for Clinical Psychology. Earlier, it was attached to the Psychiatry Department.