National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences, or NIMHANS for short, is a name that people in India are familiar with. It is the apex centre for mental illnesses’ treatment and studying about neurological sciences. It is located in Bengaluru, Karnataka.
Charles Irving Smith, a surgeon from England is the reason NIMHANS stands where it does today. In 1800s, the British and French had started opening mental asylums across various cities. Smith was inspired by them and he convinced his senior officials to develop one in the city he was posted at then. Hence, the Bangalore Mental Asylum developed and became the first attempt at institutionalizing treatment of mental illnesses in the city. It followed the various mental asylums that had been built by the British East India Company in India.
By the early 1930s, the asylum was running to full capacity and receiving over 100 admissions every year from across India. After the First World War, it was moved to its current location, for which the foundation stone was laid by the Mysore King Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV. It was initially called ‘Government Mental Hospital’ and found its first Indian psychiatric superintendent in Dr Frank Noronha. He was supported by prominent psychiatrist Dr MV Govindaswamy. In 1974, the amalgamation of this hospital with the All India Institute of Mental Health led to the formation of NIMHANS.
NIMHANS has produced more than 1,000 Psychiatrists, about 600 Clinical Psychologists and Psychiatric Nurses so far. Most of the reviews are positive and bring a breath of fresh air for patients. People who haven’t been to psychiatrists before are anxious while facing them. The stigma attached to even visiting a psychiatrist is so great that it is sometimes considered a big step in recovery for people to agree to seeing doctors.
The patient load is huge and there are often shortages of staff members. This shortage ranges from nurses to doctors and sweepers. Even with all these hurdles to face, NIMHANS has rarely been in the eye of the ire of people. The institute also plays a role in making national policies and state policies on mental health. It also helps in setting up new facilities in cities that lack a proper public mental health institute.
NIMHANS has also gained a lot of repute for its contribution to research and its various scientific publications. In the period of 2013-14, nearly 770 scientific articles were published under the guidance of NIMHANS.
As per the NIMHANS Act, 2012, NIMHANS has been granted the status of an institute of national importance and has the following as its objectives,
- Provide undergraduate and postgraduate teaching in medicine and other allied sciences;
- Provide facilities for the teaching of humanities;
- Conduct experiments on new methods of medical education;
- Specify courses and curricula for undergraduate and postgraduate studies;
- To make an in-depth study and research in the field of mental health, neurosciences and allied specialties.
Since NIMHANS is a public institute, it is obvious that the charges for treatment are next to nothing. This makes mental illness treatment available to the masses. This does lead to a heavy toll for the doctors and nurses working there but with the quality they have maintained over the years, it is important to mention that they deserve a round of applause from all of us.
Now that mental illness treatment is available to all, the next step is to sensitize people and make them feel comfortable in using this treatment when they feel like they need it.