Study: Self-reporting cases of mental Illnesses less than 1%
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Study: Self-reporting cases of mental Illnesses less than 1%

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Recently, IIT Jodhpur conducted a study focusing on the reporting of mental health disorders and illnesses in India. This study, which was based on the 75th round of the National Sample Survey of India (2017-18), revealed concerning trends regarding the reporting of mental issues in the nation. It was found that mental disorders are self-reported less than 1% of the time.

It indicates that societal stigma around mental health issues still persists and the negative perception of society about mental disorders proves to be a barrier to seeking help. Those who are afflicted by mental disorders and need support continue to be reluctant to reach out to mental health professionals due to a fear of judgment from others.

Read More: Debunking the Stigma: 5 Myths About Seeking Mental Health Professional Help

As per the press release issued by the institution, the data for this study was collected from over 5 lakh individuals, who came from both rural and urban areas, which were selected randomly. It included both outpatient and hospitalisation cases due to mental disorders. The study was co-authored by Dr Alok Ranjan (Assistant Professor at the School of Liberal Arts (SoLA) in IIT Jodhpur), and Dr Jewel Crasta (School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at the Ohio State University, Columbus, USA). It has been published in the International Journal of Mental Health Systems.

The main findings of the study are summarised below:

  1. Low Self-Reporting of Mental Disorders: The main takeaway of the study was that self-reporting of mental disorders in India is significantly lower than the actual number of people suffering due to such issues. There is a major gap between the identification of issues and addressing these problems.
  2. Socio-economic disparities: The study also pointed towards a considerable socio-economic divide in the instances of self-reporting of mental health issues. People belonging to higher strata of the population and having high incomes were found to be 1.73 times more likely to report mental disorders as compared to poor and low-income citizens.
  3. Dominance of Private Sector: The private sector emerged as the primary provider of mental health services. 66.1% of outpatient care cases and 59.2% of inpatient care cases were handled by the private sector.
  4. High Out-of-Pocket Expenditure: For both hospitalisation and outpatient care, patients with mental disorders had to bear high expenditure. The rates of required expenditure were found to be higher in the private sector in comparison to the public sector. High costs of mental health services also seem to be a likely cause of people’s reluctance to report mental disorders.
  5. Limited Health Insurance Coverage: Only 23% of individuals hospitalised for mental disorders had health insurance coverage at the national level. This could be another contributing factor to low rates of self-reporting.

The above-mentioned findings point towards the negative implications of the societal stigma surrounding mental health. There is a dire need to destigmatize mental disorders and foster an environment that encourages people to seek support for their issues. A few things that can help in destigmatising mental illness have been mentioned below:

  • Learning about mental health: Awareness of mental health must be created in society. Mental health professionals must take up the responsibility of disseminating factual and accurate information regarding mental health, and demystifying mental disorders. Workshops and seminars for both school children and adults must be conducted which question the myths regarding mental health and provide people with channels through which they can seek help for their issues.
  • Using words carefully: Prejudices and stigma around mental disorders get reinforced through insensitive language. Calling people ‘mental’, ‘crazy’, ‘insane’ or ‘mad’ is a common practice. These habits must be called out and eliminated. Building an environment of sympathy and understanding regarding mental disorders is important as it gives people the confidence to ask for help and enter treatment.
  • Inclusion of mental health in school curriculum: Information regarding the importance of mental health, mental disorders and treatments, psychotherapy and medications must be part of the school curriculum for children. It will allow the school children to grow up into empathetic adults and also ensure that they do not hesitate to speak out in case they ever face mental issues.
  • Sharing Your Story: If a person suffers from a mental disorder or faces mental issues such as anxiety and depression, it can be very beneficial for society if they share their story of the struggle with the illness and experience of treatment and ongoing recovery. It can give people hope that mental disorders do not mean the end of their lives and that they can overcome them with adequate treatments, therapy, and support from their near and dear ones.

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