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Low self-reporting in mental health: Challenges and solutions | Health


The low self-reportage of mental health issues in India is a multifaceted phenomenon deeply intertwined with cultural, societal and systemic factors. To understand this issue, we must delve into the scientific and realistic perspectives that underpin its complexities.

Low self-reporting in mental health: Challenges, tips to tackle taboo, strategies for change, solutions (Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash)
Low self-reporting in mental health: Challenges, tips to tackle taboo, strategies for change, solutions (Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Navodita Kumar, Clinical Psychologist at Apollo Clinic in Chandanagar, revealed, “Cultural factors play a significant role in shaping attitudes towards mental health. In India, traditional beliefs often view mental illness as a moral failing or a result of past karma, leading to stigma and discrimination. For example, conditions like depression and anxiety may be perceived as signs of weakness rather than legitimate health concerns. This cultural narrative discourages individuals from acknowledging their struggles and seeking professional help.”

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She shared, “Societal pressures also contribute to low self-reportage of mental health issues. The emphasis on success and achievement can create an environment where admitting vulnerability is seen as a sign of failure. For instance, high academic expectations in schools may exacerbate stress and anxiety among students, yet seeking support is often viewed as a sign of inadequacy. To address this complex issue, evidence-based interventions grounded in scientific principles are essential. This includes implementing community-based mental health programs that prioritize early intervention and prevention efforts. For instance, school-based initiatives that teach coping skills and resilience-building strategies can promote mental well-being from a young age.”

The expert added, “Furthermore, integrating mental health services into primary care settings can improve accessibility and reduce stigma. By embedding mental health screenings and interventions within routine healthcare visits, individuals may feel more comfortable addressing their concerns and seeking support.”

According to Dr Valli Kiran, Consultant Psychiatrist at SPARSH Hospital in Bangalore, low reporting of mental health issues is a problem because many people don’t realise they have a problem or are too embarrassed to seek help. She said, “Even though more people are aware of mental health now, many still don’t know much about different disorders. Sometimes, people only realize they have a problem when they see a doctor. People are still afraid to talk about mental health because of what others might think. They might be okay with talking to a counsellor but not with taking medication or admitting they have a serious problem. This makes it hard for them to get the help they need.”

Asserting that this lack of reporting has a big impact on healthcare, Dr Valli Kiran said, “Some people don’t get help at all, so their problems get worse. Others go to the doctor for physical symptoms caused by stress or depression, which makes it harder to treat their mental health issues. This puts more pressure on hospitals and delays treatment for everyone. Our healthcare system needs to focus more on helping people stay mentally healthy, not just treating them when they’re sick. Things like yoga and meditation can help, but we need to do more to prevent mental health problems. We should also look out for signs of trouble, like changes in behaviour or problems with relationships. If someone needs help, they should get it quickly from a doctor who knows how to treat mental health issues. We need to work together to make sure everyone can live a happy, healthy life.”

Bringing his expertise to the same, Dr Ravi Kumar CP, Consultant – Paediatric Neurology at Aster CMI Hospital in Bangalore, highlighted why self-reporting of mental illness is low even after so much awareness now and said, “For centuries, mental illness has been stigmatized globally, transcending borders and genders. This pervasive stigma creates barriers for individuals to openly share their experiences and emotions. Even when they muster the courage to speak up, there’s a lingering fear of confidentiality breaches or discrimination. Teenagers, especially, grapple with the fear of peer bullying and ostracization. Similarly, professionals worry about job security amidst the negative perceptions surrounding mental health issues. These challenges collectively hinder individuals from seeking the support they need.”

Revealing that this indicates that the actual burden is higher than noted, he explained how it affects the healthcare system and said, “The existing healthcare infrastructure is ill-prepared to address the escalating challenges posed by mental illness. Despite the prevailing notion that minor difficulties can be managed through resilience and assistance, numerous individuals are grappling with severe mental health conditions without adequate support. A substantial portion of the population silently endures mental health issues without seeking help or experiencing improvement. In a nation of millions, this neglected segment faces detrimental impacts on their well-being and career trajectory. Furthermore, the repercussions may extend to future generations, perpetuating the cycle of untreated mental health issues.”

Talking about ways to overcome this burden, Dr Ravi Kumar CP suggested, “Addressing the stigma surrounding mental health and overcoming barriers such as high insurance costs are crucial endeavours. The government must acknowledge mental health disorders as legitimate medical conditions. Furthermore, authorities must intervene to alleviate financial burdens by providing assistance with insurance expenses and supporting individuals grappling with mental illness. These reforms are urgently needed to ensure that individuals receive the necessary support and care without delay.”


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