According to state Health Minister Dr Sapam Ranjan Singh, 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. He informed that only about 30 psychiatrists are active in the whole state of Manipur and underscored the need to increase the number of psychiatrists considering the rise of mental health issues in the state.
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. We have been pointing it out to the authorities time and again. About three or four decades back, there were very few Psychiatrists in the state as many of the doctors while going for higher degrees mostly opt for either Medicine, Gynaecology & Obstetrics or Surgery etc. It is just not because these medical disciplines are lucrative, but they were the most sought-after specialists in those days.
The prevalence of drug abuse among the youth and large scale addiction in the 80s, besides the overall scenario of youth discontent and frustration over several factors including that of high unemployment vis-à-vis high literacy and corruption. Then, the absence of adequate 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.
We have been writing about the need for a dedicated mental hospital in the state for quite some time and the state seems to have come to its senses lately. Now that there is a proposal for construction of a state mental hospital at Salam Keikhu in Lamsang constituency is in the works and likely to be approved soon, it needs to be sped up. Doctors have cited the problem of widespread drug abuse among the young population. But it is much more than drug addiction.
The constant state of conflict 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 and the prevalence of drug addiction among the young have added to the general malaise.
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. Now even more alarming is the impact of the pandemic on mental health of the general population. Experts are expecting a five-fold increase in mental health cases in the coming days.