The Institute of Mental Health (IMH), Kilpauk, will be made an autonomous organization before August 15, the Tamil Nadu government has indicated.
The move for autonomy aims to provide the institute with the same facilities and atmosphere as is prevalent in the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore.
"Mental illness is a serious challenge to public health because of lack of doctors. It is estimated that 10% have some form of mental illness and 1% have serious mental illness. This means Tamil Nadu has at least six lakh people suffering from some form of mental illness," said Health secretary VK Subburaj.
Speaking at a three-day seminar on Perspective of Mental Illness in India organised by the Banyan Academy for Leadership in Mental Health, Mr Subburaj also said that there was an acute shortage of specialists in the state.
The conditions at IMH presently are akin to a prison with patients called as inmates and care givers called as warders. It is hoped that autonomy will change this situation. IMH director Dr R Sathianathan said that autonomy would help the institute become more patient-friendly.