Mental health disorders are covered by insurance but few people know this. World over, it is recognised that adolescence is a time of tumultuous transformation for youth. The transition to adulthood is never a smooth journey, and it has often paved the way for anxiety and insecurity due to peer pressure, societal pressures and the weight of academic expectations, among other factors. For middle-income households in India, it is not easy to grasp these issues. There is often a phase of self-denial as well. In the case of low-income households, the matter remains unaddressed altogether till it may be too late to address or rectify.
A recent 2022 study shows that the mental health of people between the ages of 18 and 24 has been worst affected after the Covid-19 pandemic. A new survey on mental health in India has put the spotlight back on mental health, thanks to the Sapien Labs Centre for Human Brain and Mind at Krea University in India. They claim that it is the largest survey on mental health that has been undertaken in India.
A recent report they released probes the finer nuances pertaining to mental health of young Indians. Here are some notable findings from their survey:
The mental health of Indians spanning 18-74 years has witnessed a clear decline from the year 2020 to 2023 - this is most notable for those in the age group of 18-24 years.
Following the pandemic, social interactions had declined but there was increased use of the internet and social media.
The decline of mental health is seen steepest among 18-24-year-olds.
Clearly, these findings warrant more attention from doctors, parents, educators, and society in general. There is little awareness on this aspect and it is not prominently discussed in public spheres or through campaigns. Across all spheres of life, young Indians experience dysfunctional relationships that affect their mental health and this results in bottling-up emotions and leads to emotional outbursts and at times, clear challenges when it comes to anger management. Unfortunately, neither Indian families nor educational institutions take a proactive approach on this emerging issue.
Mental Health Disorders Rising Among Young Indians
Known for its ‘demographic dividend; India’s adolescent population are deemed to be the country’s futuristic wealth as their contribution to the society and the economy will spur greater growth and development across every sector. Recent findings on the increasing number of mental health disorders among teenagers in India remain a matter of concern.
Despite greater awareness about mental health disorders In India, it is often under-reported due to several social and cultural factors including lack of prioritisation and poor awareness, among others. In some cases, there is a sense of social stigma about being perceived wrongly and the need to demonstrate self-reliance at any cost. When we refer to mental health scenarios in India, it is essential to acknowledge that gender disparities are worrying.
For instance, teenage girls in India have different types of challenges that tend to affect their mental well-being. In comparison, teenage boys in India are expected to behave in a ‘masculine way’ and when they do not, they face bullying and shaming on campuses.
Insurance for Mental Health: An Emerging Necessity
In a first, Ayushman Bharat, the most well–known flagship insurance scheme of Government of India, covers mental health disorders, thereby signalling the regulatory importance it has. The cover extends to public sector hospitals, not private ones. However, it is unfortunate that some state governments have opted out of Ayushman Bharat, which means this coverage may depend on which states are adhering to it.
Notably, another recent mental health survey conducted by Sukoon Health indicates that around 70% of respondents confirmed that it is important to treat mental health conditions. This clearly indicates that the Indian society recognises the need for medical intervention.
A crucial finding from the Sukhoon survey is that around 82% of respondents did not know that their insurance policy can cover costs pertaining to mental health treatment. This brings forward an important facet in terms of knowledge gap. It is critical to drive awareness on how insurance safeguards costs related to mental health treatment, thereby ensuring that individuals are aware of the options available to them.
Ayushman Bharat is an example of how regulatory frameworks in India recognise the need to address the issue of mental health disorders in an impactful way. Vigilance is essential not only within the framework of families but also in educational institutions as crimes are on the rise among young children. As a mandatory practice, if educational institutions enable mental health insurance cover as a critical component of the student admission process, it can have a transformative impact in terms of driving awareness and insurance coverage at one go.
Undoubtedly, equity in mental healthcare treatment is a concerning issue and a pressing need that needs more attention. Access to mental healthcare services has several barriers, which is why it is essential to understand how insurance can step up as a financial safety net in such situations. Taking cues from successful campus initiatives that have strengthened the mental health disorders among young Indians would be a good place to start, besides initiating more insurance awareness on the same.