PHC docs to be trained to diagnose mental health issues such as Parkinson’s and Dementia: Health Minister K Sudhakar
Taboo and stigma surrounding mental health needs to be fought
Bengaluru, July 22:
In a first of its kind initiative in the entire country, Karnataka Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar inaugurated the Brain Health Clinic (BBC) under the Karnataka Brain Health Initiative (KaBHI) at Bengaluru’s Jayanagara Government Hospital on Friday.
Prior to inauguration, Minister Sudhakar spoke at World Brain Day-2022 event organized at NIMHANS and stated that treatment for mental health will be available at the 243 Namma Clinics and will be started soon in Bengaluru.
Grassroot level training for identification and treatment of mental health issues
The main focus of the KaBHI initiative is to train PHC doctors to diagnose and provide primary care for brain and mental health issues including Stroke, Epilepsy, Parkinson’s, Brain Tumor and Dementia. Further, the initiative focusses on training ASHA workers to screen people for such mental health issues which greatly increases speed of diagnosis and treatment potentially offering a complete cure to some of these diseases.
The Brain Health Clinics will serve as nodal centres to diagnose, treat, refer and follow-up patients with common neurological disorders and ensure that they receive multidisciplinary care, including counselling, physiotherapy, rehabilitation and disability benefits.
KaBHI is the first of its kind initiative in India with the objective to promote brain health in the community from PHCs to secondary level district hospitals and NIMHANS at the tertiary level.
“Doctors working in most rural PHCs are MBBS doctors and lack skills and knowledge to diagnose Mental Health issues. With the help of NIMHANS, we have trained 100 such PHC doctors to make mental health treatment more accessible at primary and secondary levels. With this, people from far off places need not come all the way to NIMHANS unless there is need for tertiary care. This will also allow fast diagnosis which leads to better treatment which in turn can potentially lead to a complete cure,” said Minister Sudhakar during the inauguration event.
Fight to overcome taboo and stigma surrounding mental health
Minister Sudhakar also spoke about the taboo and stigma associated with mental health. “Many people have wrong opinions, taboos and stigma about Mental health. If one is seen going to a counselor or a psychiatrist, people think that there is something wrong with the person’s brain or that they are mad. Many don’t get go because of this,” he said. He further said that these reasons in addition to poverty and lack of adequate facilities cause mental health issues to go unaddressed. The KaBHI will also focus on making mental health more accessible while fighting out the stigma through awareness programs simultaneously.
The initiative was launched in January 2022 by Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on a pilot basis for Chikkaballapur, Kolar and Bengaluru South districts and will soon be extended across the state.
Karnataka’s overwhelming success in past counselling initiatives
Minister Sudhakar said that the personal trigger to increase access to mental health came to him when a person at Bengaluru’s Victoria hospital died by suicide after testing positive for COVID-19 when the pandemic initially struck India. Minister Sudhakar recalled that this is when he realized that counseling was necessary for COVID-19 patients and started a door to door counseling in collaboration with NIMHANS. He stated that in around one and a half years since the counseling began, Karnataka had counselled 25 lakh COVID-19 patients, which was done in no other state in the country.
He also recalled how he realized that counselling was necessary for SSLC students awaiting their results. “When there was three days remaining for the SSLC result, I spoke to our officials and they began counseling students who were awaiting their results. I was surprised that thousands of students used this counseling facility. Who knows, maybe we were successful in saving many lives,” he said.
Karnataka’s pioneering model appreciated and adopted by Union government
He also stated that the Union government was on its way to announce a new Tele-Manas initiative which is based on E-Manas, a platform pioneered by Karnataka. E-Manas is an online platform where patients, mental health professionals and mental health establishments could register which will greatly increase access to mental health. A total of 153 mental health establishments, 259 mental health professionals and 9030 patients have registered on E-Manas.
Famous Indian cricketer Robin Uttappa, who is also a Kanandiga, has been made the ambassador for the initiative and Minister Sudhakar appreciated him during the event for readily agreeing to be the ambassador without expecting for any remuneration.