Scope and Limitations of Mental Health Coverage

Scope and Limitations of Mental Health Coverage

One out of three people in India seeking medical attention are likely to be depressed. Although mental health should not be taken lightly under any scenario, India treats it as a negative concept, and there is a stigma of mental illness. According to figures from the World Health Organization, India has one of the highest rates of suicide globally, with over 220,000 suicides annually. This should not be surprising, given that suicidal tendencies are directly associated with undiagnosed or untreated depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and schizophrenia.

Considering the fact that psychological care accounts for a minuscule 0.06% of India’s healthcare budget, the need to create awareness about mental health and social stigma is much needed in India.

What Makes Promoting Mental Health Awareness in India a Challenge?

Mental illness is widely stigmatised in India. Society often addresses people suffering from mental health with derogatory terms like ‘lunatic’, ‘mad’, and ‘possessed’, and that they belong to a mental hospital. The stigma of mental health disorders is not limited to a certain region. It stretches across all lines of gender, caste, religion, socio-economic class, and region.

People fear expressing their vulnerabilities in public due to judgement, gossip, and drama because of the stigmatisation of mental illness. This suppresses the much-needed psychological care. Moreover, in a country of 1.3 billion people, there are only 5,000 psychiatrists and 2,000 clinical psychologists, which create a staggering healthcare gap for mental health in India.

The long-held taboo and the stigma of appearing normal in public have prevented millions from seeking mental health care. Here are four major reasons why promoting awareness of the same is a challenge in India.

1. Insufficient Resources

There is a lack of mental health facilities and professionals in India. Furthermore, most of the existing services are pricey for the majority of the population.

2. Limited Understanding

India has a lack of awareness and a stigma surrounding mental health. Many people don't know what signs of mental illness to look for or where to turn for assistance when required.

3. Cultural Preconceptions

Cultural and traditional beliefs around mental illness also prevent people from getting proper treatment. In India, a large section of people seek treatment from traditional healers instead of mental health specialists. This is because they think that supernatural or spiritual forces are the root cause of any mental disease.

4. Lack of Government Support

Most of the existing mental health initiatives are underfunded. Unfortunately, the allocation of funds by the Indian government to address this critical issue has fallen short of the necessary financial support.

The relationship between stigma and mental health is extremely strong. It is imperative for governmental bodies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and social institutions to proactively engage in public education regarding mental health issues and debunk the myths surrounding them. The mental health stigma should be normalised like other physical illnesses. A collective effort to foster understanding, compassion, and support within society is the need of the hour.

>> Also Read: Menopause & Mental Health: How to Live a Healthy Life after the 50s?

When IRDAI Steps in

Fortunately, amidst the challenges, a positive shift is evident, driven by a growing awareness of mental health issues. Several government agencies are proactively undertaking initiatives to address these concerns. To curb the mental health stigma, the Government of India introduced the Mental Health Act, 2017, which was enacted on 28th May 2018. Under this Act, IRDAI made it compulsory for all health insurance plans to include mental health coverage similar to that of physical ailment coverage. However, the formalities and the execution of the direction were still pending until the pandemic.

In 2019, when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, the need for mental illness coverage was felt more than ever. IRDAI again mandated all the insurance providers to begin with mental illness coverage. However, until 31st October 2022, not many serious steps were taken.

As of now, mental health illnesses are covered under health insurance plans at similar lines to physical ailments. However, this is not a hidden fact that there is still confusion, misunderstandings and stigma around mental health in society. Though we have come too far in progress, we are still a lot behind in addressing mental health issues.

Why is Mental Health Coverage Important?

The impact of mental illness on life and career can be significant. Over time, the situation can exacerbate. However, with appropriate coverage, individuals can access the necessary treatment without the burden of financial concerns. Let’s see how:

  1. Mental illnesses are not limited to an age group, they can happen to anyone.
  2. People who have a family history of mental illnesses are more prone to them.
  3. Children and young adults are equally susceptible to mental health issues. 
  4. Increasing stress in our lives, traumatic events, isolation due to COVID etc., have made people experience negative feelings quite often.
  5. With mental illness coverage, you can get adequate coverage for the following:
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Bi-polar disease
  • OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder
  • PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder.

Care Health Insurance - Your Companion in this Journey

Care Health Insurance is always willing to promote mental health awareness and normalise mental illnesses at par with physical illness. At Care Health Insurance, we recognise the existing care gap in common mental health conditions and are committed to innovative approaches. Our one such plan, Care Supreme offers coverage for mental health and wellbeing as an optional benefit that ensures you need not invest separately for mental health coverage. One can avail consultation, counselling and rehabilitation up to a defined amount as per the policy terms.

Through our health insurance coverage, we aim to diversify and scale up care for mental health, ensuring comprehensive well-being for all our customers, encompassing both physical and mental health needs, and reducing the stigma of psychological disorders. From treatment to rehabilitation and medications, we cover everything for you. Choose from the plans that best suit your needs and live a stress-free life.

Disclaimers: The above information is for reference purposes only. Kindly consult your general physician for verified medical advice. The health insurance benefits are subject to policy terms and conditions. Refer to your policy documents for more information.

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