India needs to move from mortality figures as the only indicator of population's health, and should also consider thosee suffering from chronic health conditions including mental disorders, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Anupriya Patel said on Monday.
She added that mental illness of various kinds seem to be on the rise, ranging from depression and anxiety to a host of other psychiatric disorders, but the government was working on this.
"Indian government is trying to develop and allocate resources to address this problem, and we encourage and welcome collaboration with the private sector," she said at an event organised by "The Live Love Laugh Foundation" (TLLLF) to mark the World Mental Health Day on Monday.
The minister stressed there was a need to broaden the view and definition of health.
"Being healthy is no longer perceived the mere absence of illness or disease. Being healthy means having an emotional balance in our lives, being able to think creatively, being able to feel and express emotions, and having psychological balance," she said.
Her address was followed by a panel discussion titled "India's mental health tsunami". During the event, TLLLF also launched a nationwide mental health awareness campaign.
Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone, also the founder of TLLLF, said she witnessed a "huge change" during the one year since she shared her story of overcoming depression and setting up the foundation.
"Today, there is a conversation going on about mental disorders, including depression. It is a great beginning," she said.
Deepika Padukone at the unveiling of the country's first nationwide public awareness campaign on mental health Dobara Poocho.
Deepika added that the root cause of the rising number of mental disorder patients is the stigma attached to it.
"Only if we get over the stigma attached to the mental illness and treat it like any other illness, can we claim to have won the battle," she added.
Indian Medical Association's National President-elect K.K. Aggarwal said that people suffering from medical disorders are excluded from mediclaim.
"People suffering from depression must receive all possible support, going as far as to not be excluded in mediclaim. If people are excluded, they will not disclose their disease," he said.
Indian Psychiatric Society President G. Prasad Rao said that mental illness is a "rising phenomenon" in our society which needs to be addressed on an urgent basis.
"Barely 6,500 psychiatrists currently available in India cannot serve a population of 1.2 billion... Also, we must give dignity and reduce stigma for all persons affected and help them lead normal, healthy lives," he said.
Others who participated in the panel discussion included TLLLF chairperson Anna Chandy, National Professional Officer at WHO's Country Office for India Sadhana Bhagwat and NGO Sangath founder Vikram Patel.