Is the govt passing the buck on taking care of mentally ill patients to private players?

Illustration: Prathap Ravishankar

We’ve all interacted with people who suffer from mental illnesses, whether it’s that friend who’s struggling with depression or that ‘crazy’ person who wanders the streets everyone avoids. Yet, as a society, we hem and haw when it comes to addressing the issue of mental healthcare. The stigma around mental illness remains severe, thereby creating a vicious circle of inadequate facilities and systems to care for patients.

Tamil Nadu, which has better mental healthcare facilities than most states in the country, is in a state of flux right now in this matter. As it attempts to find a balance between the services provided by government institutions and those by private players and NGOs, the question is — what is best for the patient?

The Institute of Mental Health (IMH), Chennai, the only government hospital that treats mental illnesses in Tamil Nadu, has been working with NGOs on several counts. For instance, Shraddha takes over patients from northern India who have recovered and reunites them with their families there. The Banyan ran a service called 'Dial 100' through which it rescued mentally ill people from the streets of Chennai and admitted them to IMH.

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