How Affordable is Mental Health in India?
“Mental health is as important as physical health”. “It’s okay to not be okay”. we have come across these quotes often on social media which advocate the idea that how important it is for us to take care of our mental well-being.
In India, Mental illness is often stigmatized, it is associated with being crazy, and one doesn’t want to seek help because of this one particular aspect. It ruins the reputation, and one is often considered abnormal and their personal life is affected as well. While all of this remains, the idea among youngsters regarding mental health is changing and the talk has become more prominent regarding mental health at least on the social media spectrum.
According to WHO (World Health Organisation), mental illness makes about 15% of the total disease of the world. And that 1 in 7 Indians suffer from mental health-related issues.
While one finally concludes to seek help after struggling to maintain balanced mental health, the search to find a professional becomes tiresome. While there is confusion on whether to go to a psychologist, psychiatrist, or a social worker, the second part and the most difficult part of this search are the charges that one has to bear. This is nevertheless one of the biggest barriers to seeking mental health treatment in India, the cost. The herculean hourly rate which ranges from 500–1500/2000 per session of 50–60 minutes creates a bit of a tug in deciding to spend the amount for one’s mental health.
The reason for such high cost depends and revolves around several reasons. The first and important reason being the education qualification one has and from where. While it is believed that the finest come from NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience), many others graduating from prestigious universities charge based on the amount they have spent on the education. While therapy is a much more popularised concept in cities in comparison to the rural areas, the costs also differ from each city, while metropolitan cities have the best therapists, they also have one of the expensive ones. Rural India still struggles to understand the ever-changing concept of mental health and struggles in accessing mental health majorly due to unavailability.
Apart from all these reasons, a therapist’s livelihood is also dependent on this, and the maintenance of the office costs which come, to provide a safe and comfortable space for patients. Along with that, there’s a cost for maintaining the license and certifications and the annual training programs as well. Most of the insurance companies do not cover OPD mental health treatments and very few cover the IPD. Though according to one of the clauses of The Mental Health Act Sec 21(4) that states that ‘Every insurer must make provision for medical insurance for treatment of mental illness equal to that of physical illness’. The IRDAI issued guidelines and directed insurers to comply with the act as of Sept 2019. Apart from the insurance agencies not covering the charges many people pull out due to lack of proper knowledge and it is a nascent product.
The Acute shortage of Mental health professionals is another problem as the Mental Health workforce in India (per 100,000 population) is; Psychiatrists (0.3), psychiatric nurses (0.12), psychologists (0.07), and social workers(0.07).
Some institutions provide free/discounted therapy. MANASTHA is one of the well known and highly regarded platforms for seeking help. One can also contact the state department’s public/community health center. Students can seek care from college/university counselors that are mostly available.
While mental health is not easily accessible and the cost does play a hindrance, it is important to seek help, while it can be an exuberant task to find the right therapist, it is important to take the effort and seek help. It is equally important to stay mentally healthy and happy. While many of us have a person to talk to and feel okay, it is important to understand that if things are getting out of hand, it is important to seek professional help.
Contributed by Shravani D’souza content writer at Mitti Ke Rang
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