MUMBAI: With depression set to emerge as the second biggest global health concern after cardiovascular diseases by 2020 according to World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates, state health authorities have pressed the panic button.The Maharashtra mental health authority has sought Rs120 crore from the centre to upgrade the Thane and Yerwada mental hospitals to cope with the new health threat. The scramble to revamp the mental health care system is not without reason. Stress, competition, technology, chronic ailments and a rapidly changing social fabric are contributing to the deteriorating mental graph and there are not enough mental health professionals to combat this.Laying out a grim prognosis, city doctors say disorders are already on the upswing in Mumbai as well as the entire state. It is estimated that by 2015, about 7.5% of Maharashtra’s population might be suffering from some kind of mental agony. According to WHO, depression will be the leading reason for morbidity and loss of man hours. “We want to upgrade the two biggest hospitals in the state as mental illnesses are rising at an alarming rate both in Mumbai as well as Maharashtra,” said Dr Sanjay Kumawat, member-secretary, State Mental Health Authority. “Technology is making us run against ourselves and pushing us to do things much faster that our predecessors,” says Dr Hozefa A Bhinderwala, consultant psychiatrist, Saifee Hospital and Prince Aly Khan Hospital. “The cycle of stress is never ending and there is no time to unwind,” he adds, explaining that the stress just keeps piling up over the years and takes the form of a serious physical ailment later. According to Dr Vasant Mundra, consultant psychiatrist at the PD Hinduja Hospital, depression is causing suicides and affecting marriages and careers. “There is a gradual decline of shock absorbers in our culture with parents having little time for children,” he says. And, children, on the other hand, are stuck in a conflict of culture. “Youngsters do not want to live within boundaries in either their choice of career or sexual orientation,” he adds. “Clinical depression can be treated if diagnosed in time,” says psychiatrist Dr Yusuf Matcheswalla. “But due to the stigma attached most patients seek help only when depression combined with physical ailments has reached a serious stage,” he adds. The stigma attached to the condition goes even deeper to prevent medical students from opting for psychiatry as specialisation. Barely 40-45 students opt for psychiatry in the 27 government and 134 private medical colleges in Maharashtra every year. The mental health authorities have now initiated talks with medical colleges — both government and private — to shore up the numbers of psychiatrists passing out annually. “We want to start diploma courses in the mental hospital premises and we have already approached the College of Physicians and Surgeons,” said Kumawat. The department is also in talks with the Medical Council of India to increase the post-graduate seats in psychiatry. The way out, perhaps, lies in Dr Bhinderwala’s advice. “We need to accept that just as one suffers from malaria or typhoid, anyone can have mental problems,” he says.