Indian Journal of PsychiatryIndian Journal of Psychiatry
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Year : 2012  |  Volume : 54  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 32-36

The census of India and the mentally ill

1 Consultant Psychiatrist, Sitaram Bhartia Institute, and Fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Teen Murti House, New Delhi, India
2 Department of Psychiatry, Molecular Genetics Laboratory, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Hosur Road, Bangalore, Karnataka, India

Correspondence Address:
Sanjeev Jain
Department of Psychiatry, Molecular Genetics Laboratory, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Hosur Road, Bangalore 560029, Karnataka
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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Context/Background: Epidemiological data have long been considered essential for documenting incidence of disability and planning services. India has been conducting census operations for a long time, and this information may be relevant in the current context. Aims: To document the prevalence of insanity, and discussions about treatment and disability arising out of mental illness in India (1850-1950). Settings and Design: The material used was located at the British Library and the Wellcome Library, London; the Teen Murti Library, Delhi, and web-based archives. Materials and Methods: We have retrieved and summarized the coverage of psychiatric illness in previous census reports from the 19 th and 20 th century. Statistical Analysis: None, this relies upon historical archives and documents. Results and Conclusions: Differences in incidence and prevalence of insanity, as well as biological and psycho-social factors in the causation, and outcomes, of mental illness are all discussed in these census reports. Comparisons are often drawn to other countries and cultures, and impressions drawn about these differences and similarities. Similar concerns persist to this day. Disabilities and mental illness were not enumerated since the census of 1941 and have been restored only recently, and this lacuna has hampered planning in the post-Independence era. As we debate policy and plan interventions using contemporary census data, it may be useful to remind ourselves of the issues, then and now.



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