In 2017, an estimation of the burden of mental health conditions found that almost 20 crore Indians are suffering from a mental health disorder, of which more than 4.5 crore people affected by depression, and more than 4 crore facing anxiety. These numbers indicate that India is facing a mental health emergency, which can be tackled through awareness and access to professional help. In a major move to address the crisis the Insurance Regulartory and Development Autority of India has made it mandatory to include psychological disorders in health insurance policies.
What can this change?
With this change, insurance companies in India will now have to give anxiety, depression and similar conditions the same importance as physical ailments while providing support. So far family health covers provide services for hospitalisation and treatment at hospitals, but left out mental health. So far only 10 to 12 per cent of Indians in need of mental health attention are seeking professional help, but IRDAI’s policy can make the services more accessible and affordable.
The cost of mental health
Therapists in India charge between Rs 1,500 and Rs 2,000 on an average, while online professional help is accessible between Rs 700 and Rs 4,500 a session. These are the rates in a country where 90 per cent of the population earns less than Rs 25,000 a month. Professionals in India are also affected by burnout and mental health costs Indian firms more than Rs 1 lakh crore a year.
What is covered as mental health?
Disorders that affect thought process, perception, mood, behaviour and judgment apart from the capacity to recognise reality, are defined as mental illnesses under the Mental Healthcare Act 2017. It also includes conditions which are associated with alcohol and drug abuse, and insurers will have to cover the analysis of these conditions as well. The policies will also have to cover expenses in case a patient is hospitalised as a consequence of a mental health condition.