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PUBLIC HEALTH

Survey points to high mental illness incidence in Kerala

Friday 2 June 2006, by KURIAN*Sangheet

Findings of an NSSO survey on disabled persons in the country

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala has earned the dubious distinction of the State with the highest number of people with mental illness in the country.

The State is also way ahead of the national average in terms of the number of people with various kinds of disabilities such as mental retardation, hearing, speech impairment and loco motor disabilities.

The findings are the highlight of a survey on `Disabled Persons in India’ conducted by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) after a gap of 11 years.

This is the first time the survey contains information on mentally challenged persons, those with mental illness and retardation, along with the findings on persons with physical disabilities.

It is estimated that there are 272 persons per one lakh population in the State suffering from mental illness, while the corresponding national average is 105. The State is followed by the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (211), Himachal Pradesh (195) and Lakshadweep (177).

The number of cases reported in the State is much higher than that in relatively backward States such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh even in the case of those with mental retardation, hearing and speech defects. The only relief for the State is in the number of persons with blindness, which is marginally lower than the national average.

The survey report also gives the prevalence and incidence of different forms of disability and the distribution of the disabled by the extent of disability, educational level, living arrangement and activity status.

A total of 160 panchayat wards and 102 urban blocks were randomly selected across the State as part of the six-month survey.

According to James Mathew, director, NSSO, (Field Operations Division), the survey was conducted by a team of 60 filed investigators across the State.

Since non-medical investigators collected the data on disabilities to minimise the bias on the part of investigators and respondents, experts from the relevant medical disciplines were consulted prior to the survey, Mr. Mathew said.

In fact the decision to include mental disability in the survey was taken after conducting a pre-test on questions pertaining to disability, he added.

The survey was carried out at the request of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

See online : The Hindu

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