Dr. Majid Shafi, Nodal Officer for National Mental Health Programme (NMHP) at the Directorate of Health Services Kashmir, emphasizes the critical need for families and society to understand mental health patients and encourage them to seek effective treatment.
He highlights that mental health services are available in every district of Jammu and Kashmir under the district mental health program.
"Families, as the basic unit of society, play a significant role in addressing mental health abnormalities," Dr. Shafi told Rising Kashmir.
He stresses the importance of societal support, urging responsible members of society to avoid discriminating against mental health patients in terms of job opportunities, employment, and marriage prospects.
"We need to understand them and encourage their early treatment, recognising that many mental health patients have special needs, much like individuals with other physical challenges," he added.
Dr. Shafi advocates against stigmatising mental health patients, as stigma creates unnecessary barriers to seeking treatment.
He said that while there has been a notable increase in awareness about mental health issues, stigma still prevents many people from coming forward to address mental health-related concerns.
Dr. Shafi notes that due to societal stigma, some patients prefer consulting a neurologist, cardiologist, or general physician rather than seeking help from a psychiatrist.
However, he underscores that while these medical professionals can address common mental health issues, they may not be equipped to treat severe mental health disorders.
Dr. Shafi informed that Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory is the second region in the entire country( Karnataka being the first) where mental health services are available in district hospitals.
These services are provided under the district mental health program (DMHP), a part of the National Mental Health Programme.
Each district hospital offers psychiatrist services, outpatient services, patient counseling, and conducts awareness programs through various public outreach initiatives.
Dr. Shafi further highlighted their commitment to reaching neglected areas for both treatment and awareness.
"Despite limited staff resources, these district mental health units manage to cater to a substantial number of patients."
Dr. Shafi revealed that on average, 50 to 150 patients attend their outpatient departments (OPDs) daily at these units.
Additionally, the district units have introduced innovative approaches such as Modified Electroconvulsive Therapy (MECT), Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS), and Ketamine therapy, which have garnered recognition at the national level.