A recent study conducted by researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Jodhpur has shed light on concerning trends regarding the reporting of mental disorders in India. The study, based on data from the 75th Round National Sample Survey (NSS) 2017-2018, found that self-reporting rates for mental health problems remained remarkably low, at less than 1%.
Underreporting of Mental Illness
The NSS relied solely on self-reporting by individuals, collecting data from over 5,55,000 individuals across rural and urban areas of India. Despite the substantial sample size, the study uncovered a glaring discrepancy between the reported prevalence of mental illness and the actual burden of the disease.
Economic Burden and Access to Healthcare
An equally alarming revelation from the study was the significant economic burden faced by individuals seeking mental health services in India. With a heavy reliance on the private sector, out-of-pocket expenses for mental healthcare were found to be notably high, creating a socioeconomic divide in access to treatment.
Insights from National Mental Health Survey
These findings corroborate the 2017 National Mental Health Survey (NMHS) conducted by NIMHANS, which indicated that approximately 150 million individuals in India required treatment for mental illness. However, despite the staggering prevalence, access to care remains limited, particularly among socioeconomically disadvantaged groups.
Stigma and Treatment Seeking
The study also highlighted the pervasive stigma surrounding mental health issues in Indian society, which acts as a significant barrier to reporting and seeking treatment. Dr. Alok Ranjan, one of the co-authors of the study, emphasized the need to destigmatize mental health and create a supportive environment for seeking help.
Role of the Private Sector
Surprisingly, the private sector emerged as the primary provider of mental health services in India, catering to a majority of outpatient and inpatient care cases. However, the study revealed that only a fraction of individuals hospitalized for mental disorders had health insurance coverage, further exacerbating the financial burden on patients and their families.
Call for Action
Dr. Girish N. Rao, professor of Epidemiology at NIMHANS, underscored the urgent need for action to address the multifaceted challenges posed by mental illness in India. He emphasized the need for comprehensive strategies that not only improve access to care but also tackle the underlying socioeconomic determinants of mental health.
As India grapples with the complexities of mental healthcare, initiatives aimed at raising awareness, reducing stigma, and expanding access to affordable and quality treatment are imperative. Only through concerted efforts can the nation hope to alleviate the suffering of millions affected by mental disorders and ensure their well-being and inclusion in society.