Reaching the Unreachable: The Promise of Telepsychiatry in India



A 2005 study by the National Commission on Macroeconomics and Health indicated that at least 71 million people in India have a serious mental disorder. Despite this alarming statistic, infrastructure as well as manpower for mental health in the country is severely inadequate. Furthermore, 70% of the population lives in rural areas, far removed from the majority of mental health facilities. In light of the enormous treatment gap, wherein about 76–85% of serious cases of mental illness in less-developed countries are left untreated, telepsychiatry, defined as “the use of information and communication technology to provide or support psychiatric services across distances,” is a promising delivery method to reach millions of individuals in rural India who are unable to access mental health services and whom the mental health system is currently underequipped to serve (Malhotra, Chakrabarty & Shah, 2013). Through an exploration of the history, applications, effectiveness, and challenges of telepsychiatry, this paper makes a case for the potential of telepsychiatry to narrow the treatment gap in India.