Being a Psychiatrist in India

The number of psychiatrists in India is not enough for building a mentally healthy society. This is a conclusion that has been reached by almost every report or case study that investigates the status of psychiatric care in India. Stats say that there is one psychiatrist for 300,000 people in India. So what is it that is causing this huge gap between requirement and availability? I believe it is quite easy to blame the education system, the medical education or migration of doctors out of India but there is another aspect that hasn’t been looked into at all. It is the stigma associated with being a psychiatrist in India.

Psychiatrist Stigma

There is a lot of visible stigma associated with visiting a psychiatrist. A survey conducted by psychiatrists on 900 people showed that most didn’t even consider psychiatrists for consultation or treatment of mental illness. People just don’t want to visit psychiatrists.

A big problem lies in the fact that even undergraduate medical students aren’t exposed to psychiatry properly. There is a compulsory posting of 15 days in a psychiatric ward but many colleges fulfil that just on paper and it no surprise that there is a low ratio of students willing to be psychiatrists.

When doctors have to choose a specialisation through NEET-PG in India, psychiatry is far behind other branches like paediatrics, orthopaedics and others. It also offers less money than other branches and is, therefore, not the ideal destination for a budding doctor.

Psychiatrist Misconceptions

There are also lots of misconceptions about psychiatrists. These are further reinforced by inaccurate depiction of psychiatrists in film and media. An analysis of 26 movies was done between 2001-2010, that included 33 psychiatrist characters. 42.4% percent of them were incompetent and 39.4% breached professional ethics. Only 30.3% were shown to have an accurate diagnosis. Psychiatrists are misconstrued in movies often. This inevitably leads to a negative perception among the general public.

There is also a lot of social stigma attached to being a psychiatrist. It is somehow considered that psychiatrists are ‘crazy’. It is a belief that only the ‘crazy’ treat other ‘crazy’ people and this is simply not true. We don’t expect neurologists to have a brain problem and neither do we think our dentists have teeth filled with cavities. Yet, there is a perception that psychiatrists have a problem.

This doesn’t include the belief that psychiatric medicines are money making techniques used by ‘Big Pharma’ to get money. I have discussed that in my article about psychotropic drugs.

This is a big problem which is not discussed very often. Even among advocates of mental health awareness; there is very little appraisal of this situation. We always encourage people to remove the stigma around mental illness but are we willing to de-stigmatise the profession of psychiatry as well?

14 Replies to “Being a Psychiatrist in India”

  1. I so agree with you. it is ridiculous how much we are suffering, and how little we are willing to do about it. Im from the mental health care profession too, and it just breaks my heart as to how little i can do for everyone. great coming across your blog.

    1. I completely agree with you on that. I’m sure you are trying your best and that is all we can do right now. Im glad you dropped by. What do you do exactly though?

  2. Thats really worth reading !!! One of my friend is a psychiatrist .She says the percent of people reaching out for help has improved .Which was not same case 10 years ago!!Today family and friends are supportive too!! In some class of people there is still stigma attached to reach out to a Psychiatrist !!

  3. I feel bad for the stigmas that India has for this. I personally admire the profession. It takes a lot of courage and will to listen to other people wail their heart out.

    1. Exactly. We are quick to point out the stigma attached to mental illlnesses but we fail to address the one attached with the ones who help in healing.

  4. Absolutely! There is so much stigma around the profession that people would rather suffer than seek help. It’s important to talk more and more about it so that some positive change follows.

    1. Exactly. The stigma with visiting a psychiatrist and being a psychiatrist is a big barrier to mental health care in India.

  5. There is a LOT of Stigma associated with visiting a Psychiatrist. The minute it is know that you are goin got see one, it is just taken that you are not normal. I think thats the #1 reason for so many cases. I wish there was more awareness and more people would come forward and talk about mental health. #myfriendalexa

    1. There is Veena. Visitng a psychiatrist or being a psychiatrist is a big taboo in India. Something we need to battle.

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