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Mental health awareness program for general doctors launched

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

'More than just Sad' an awareness program on mental health targetted at sensitising general physicians to work more effectively with patients who may be going through depression or anxiety was launched here today.

Spearheaded by actress Deepika Padukone's not-for-profit organisation, The Live Laugh Foundation (TLLLF), the program aims to rope in general physicians as the first line of defence in the fight against depression, a condition witnessing "epidemic proportions" in the country.

Partnering with the Indian Medical Association (IMA) and an NGO Heart Care Foundation of (HCFI), the TLLF unvieled a webinar hosted by Dr Shyam Bhat, the psychatrist whom Padukone has publically credited with having helped her battle depression.

"GPs are already involved in caring for patients with physical conditions; we believe the program we have launched today will assist them at the first level to provide the right diagnoses and guidance to patients who could be struggling to cope with mental health issues including depression, stress and anxiety," Padukone, Founder, TLLLF, said in a statement.

The awareness program aims over the course of the year to reach out to over 5000 physicians across the country, advising them on a range of topics related to depression and its incidence, screening and treatment and giving participants material for easy reference such as videos, articles, quizzes and handouts.

Depression is a common mental disorder, characterised by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness and poor concentration.

It has been proved to affect patients socially and economically besides affecting relationships and productivity and can induce substance abuse and social frangmentation.

"We are in the midst of a huge public health crisis that many people don't realise they are going through. In urban India, 40 per cent of corporate has depression, anxiety and stress. About 40 per cent of people who see a general practitioner in a general practice clinc will have a diagnosable depression or disorder," Bhat said.

"Very few of that 40 per cent actually get diagnosed. Studies have shown that people living with chronic physical health conditions experience depression and anxiety at twice the rate of the general population," the psychatrist said.

The 'More than just Sad' campaign attempts to "equip

general physicians with the awareness and resources to be in a better position to help their patients."

Dr K K Aggarwal, Secretary General IMA said the program was in line with the Medical Council of India's new guidelines that state that 10 per cent of all medical education programmes in the country should focus on mental health.

"We hope that through this initiative, we can help raise mass awareness about important health issues impacting the overall population and the criticality of prevention, timely diagnosis and issues during the year," Aggarwal said.

Today's webinar is the first in a series of weekly webcasts to be conducted for public to spread awareness about a wide range of diseases.

Meanwhile, the launch of the program for GPs follows the unveiling earlier this year of 'You Are Not Alone' program by Padukone Padukone focused on educating high school students and teachers on stress, anxiety and depression, while also aiming to reduce the stigma that surrounds mental health.

First Published: Thu, May 19 2016. 18:14 IST