Mental health problems contribute to approximately 15% of the world’s disease burden and are on the rise. Elderly and children are the most vulnerable population with respect to any health issue, including mental health. The issues of significance in elderly include, among others, depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. In children, behavioural disorders (e.g. autism spectrum or attention-deficit), mood and personality disorders are of primary importance.

As regards elderly, mental health morbidity drops significantly after 60 years. Multiple medical problems coexist along with mental issues. With changes in lifestyle and increasing loneliness, the mental issues in elderly are predicted to increase in the next decade. Studies show lower income group are more vulnerable. In children, depression related suicides are a major issue, apart from autism-spectrum disorders. Mental issues in children lead to dropping out of school and inability to focus on studies. Another relevant mental health issue in teenagers is drug-abuse.

Mental health care in India is affected by all the three mains issues of consideration for EHRC – availability, accessibility and affordability. The dearth of psychiatrists is of great concern in cities, let alone in villages. Government psychiatrists have long queues and private psychiatrists charge hefty fees. Apart from this, in developing countries like India, mental problems such as depression and anxiety are not acknowledged as diseases which require medical attention. The first and a comprehensive national mental health survey conducted by NIMHANS is still in progress.

Nature of projects in this programme

Projects of interest to EHRC will include those that address one or more aspects of mental health issues such as diagnosis, data collection, data analysis, and treatment. Diagnostic methods could, for example (but not limited to), be one of blood-test/EEG/or any wearable device-based/MRI or video-camera-based analysis.

Projects could be of the following nature:

  • towards early diagnosis and treatment of mental health issues
  • data collection
  • policy framework
  • educational tools
  • cognitive support for elderly

Current projects @EHRC with a focus on depression:

  • Upcoming projects on multi-media analytics
  • Reconstruction & analysis of Diffusion Tensor Imaging –  Diffusion Kurtosis Imaging (DTI-DKI) of the brain to study mental illnesses