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At the beginning of 2022, the country enters the third year of its relentless battle with the Covid-19 pandemic. Given the unprecedented scenario and the resulting safeguarding measures, it is imperative to continue focusing on enhancing the health systems of the country at all levels to respond proactively to the ongoing wave of infections. Budget 2022-2023 highlights a significant impetus to establishing a health ecosystem in the country that caters to all facets of health--physical, social and emotional.  

The persistence of the pandemic and the intermittent restrictions have taken a huge toll on the mental and emotional wellbeing of individuals. This had underlined a need to drive interventions in this regard, in addition to augmenting the health infrastructure and personnel.  

The Union Finance Minister acknowledged this need and asserted that the pandemic has accentuated mental health problems in people of all ages. The proposed ‘National Tele Mental Health Programme’ announced in the budget is the first of its kind. The plan aims to include a network of twenty-three telemental health centres. National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) is selected to be the nodal centre of this initiative, with technical support being provided by the International Institute of Information Technology-Bangalore (IIITB) for the required virtual sessions. The telephonic sessions are envisaged to be the first point of contact for the individuals availing of these services. These interactions could play a significant role in the identification of the issues, their severity and formulate a proper action plan on a case-by-case basis. For instance, mild forms of challenges among individuals can be addressed at this level, while serious issues requiring medication or in-patient care could be further assigned to relevant qualified practitioners.  

This has been a welcome step against the backdrop of increased mental and emotional wellbeing crises among Indians. The rare mention of the mental health challenges in the union budget has paved way for several of the citizens to break the stigmas attached to such conversations and seek help. If implemented efficiently, the programme holds the capacity to multiply and attract traction towards combating mental health battles with resilience.  

This article is authored by Srijata Deb.