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Experts underline need for awareness of affordable health insurance for mental illnesses

Monday, April 08, 2019
By A Staff Reporter

Around 50% of individuals with multiple mental health disorders are affected by substance abuse; of all people diagnosed as mentally ill 29% abuse either alcohol or drugs

Even as India faces a rising burden of mental illnesses, there remains a huge void in awareness and social understanding of mental health issues including particularly low awareness about the need for securing health insurance for mental illnesses.

Experts and stakeholders in the field along with policymakers came together to discuss the pertinent issue at a major conference called ‘Insure Your Mental Health’ organized by Poddar Foundation, a leading institution working in the field.

Research suggests that 1 in 4 people in India deal with some form of mental illness during their lifetime. Mental health experts say rising life expectancy and changing lifestyles have in recent years led to the increasing incidence of depression, anxiety disorders and dementia among others. Unfortunately, this aggravating problem receives little attention, particularly due to low levels of awareness and the deep-rooted stigma that exists in our society.

“It is very encouraging to see the industry join hands with mental health experts to raise this very important subject that finds little or no mention in our discourse on healthcare. Not only do we need to unstigmatized the subject of mental health but we also need to educate people about insuring themselves against mental disorders. It is imperative for each one of you, as a voter to tell the politicians what you think is an important issue. If you leave it to the politicians to decide what should become an important issue, any political party or any politician regardless of Party A or B will try their level best to draw your attention towards the highlighted issues. The way Indian fought against HIV and AIDS, now Mental illness also needs to become a political issue to fight against,” said Milind Deora, President of Mumbai Congress, former Central MOS for Shipping and Telecom.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the cost of mental illness to amount to 6 billion dollars by 2030. However, in a country where penetration of health insurance itself remains low, the question of mental health insurance seems still more far-fetched.

Research suggests that 86 percent of the rural population and 82 percent of the urban are not covered by health insurance in India. With the passing of the Mental Healthcare Act (MHCA), 2017, the IRDAI has issued a mandate asking insurance providers to include mental illness in their bouquet of services. However, adequate steps have not been initiated to ensure this provision is enforced in letter and spirit.

“Firstly, we need to raise awareness among people about how mental illnesses can happen to anybody and how they come with a huge financial and emotional cost. Secondly, we need insurance providers to offer workable and affordable health plans covering mental illnesses without any significant exclusions. In a country where health insurance penetration remains low, keeping premium costs low is very essential. At the same time, we need educative communication campaigns from both government and insurance providers to raise awareness about the need for mental health insurance,” said Nanik Rupani, Principal Advisor Poddar Foundation and Founder, Priyadarshi Academy and Roopmeck Consulting.

Dr. Prakriti Poddar, Managing Trustee, Poddar Foundation underlined the need for corporates and organizations to take the lead in offering mental health assistance to their employees and ensuring their mental well-being. She added, 50% of individuals with multiple mental health disorders are affected by substance abuse; of all people diagnosed as mentally ill 29% abuse either alcohol or drugs

“Signs of mental disarray are often noticed by colleagues and seniors at workplace. This is where early intervention can be made in the form of Employee Assistance Programs. As a society, we need a collaborative effort to address the rising incidence of mental illnesses. Unfortunately, our society fails to take mental illnesses as a matter of serious concern. In many cases, mental illnesses are even trivialized or stigmatized on due to low awareness,” said Dr. Prakriti.

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