Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

National Tele-mental Health Programme and toll-free helpline number will soon entitle broader access to mental health across the country.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the National Tele-mental health programme (NTMHP) for the first time in the Union Budget 2022-23.

She signified, “The pandemic has accentuated mental health problems in people of all ages. To better the access to quality mental health counselling and care services, a ‘National Tele-Mental Health Programme’ will be launched.”

A network of 23 tele-mental health centres of excellence will be formed, with the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) being the nodal centre and the International Institute of Information Technology, Bengaluru (IIITB) providing technological support.

One tele-MANAS (Tele-Mental Health Assistance and Nationally Actionable Plan) cell would be installed in each state and union territory as part of the programme. There will be five regional coordinating centres, an official source told PTI.

The sources stated that toll-free helpline numbers are also set up nationwide, and callers can select their language of preference for availing of the services. Calls will be routed to Tele-MANAS cells in their respective states and federal territories.

As per the Lancet study published in October last year, the rising percentage in the prevalence of clinically significant depression and anxiety disorders due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 was assessed to be approximately 35 per cent in India.

According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, there has been a 10 per cent advancement in the number of suicides reported in 2020 in India as compared to 2019.

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