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Indian J Psychiatry. 2004 Jul-Sep; 46(3): 195–212.
PMCID: PMC2951645

Urban Mental Health Services in India : How Complete or Incomplete?


The information about Urban Mental Health Services has been nearly nonexistent in India, although the developed countries have been focusing on programmes for “Healthy Cities”. The initiative taken as part of the WHO-ICMR Pilot Project on Urban Mental Health Services, with a public health perspective is being shared. The objectives of the Health Services Research (HSR) Arm of the project were to study the distribution and the availability of tertiary Mental Health Services, availability of human resources, average service load, mental health service gap, and perceptions of the users and the service providers, regarding the barriers in accessibility of mental health services, unmet service needs and strategies for improvement.

The Research Methods involved Mapping Exercises with estimation of Service Loads and Qualitative Research Methods (QRM) like In-Depth Interviews (IDIs), Key Informant Interviews (KIIs), Free Listing and Focused Group Discussions (FGDs). The results indicate uneven availability of mental health services, human resource deficit specially for non-medical mental health professionals and mental health service gap (82% to96%). The average service load in the specialist mental health services is largely carried by the Govt. sector (half to two thirds), followed by the private sector (one third to half), with only a small portion by the NGO sector. The average mental health service load in the primary care general health services is largely carried by the private sector, with significant contribution from the non-formal service providers. The barriers to access, unmet needs and possible strategies as perceived by the community, users and service providers have been identified. The findings are discussed in the context of the mental health programmes and the public policy issues. The implications of the conclusions which suggest that Urban Mental Health Services are far from complete are highlighted.

Keywords: Urban Mental Health, Health Services Research, Service Utilization Indicators, Public Health Policy

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