The Imperative Need to Address Disparities in Access to Mental Health Services in India

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By Aamirah Makkar and Dr. Garima Rajan

Pune, 10th April 2024: In the rapidly evolving 21st century environment, discussions around emotional wellness are becoming increasingly important and are present in a variety of settings, from conference rooms in corporations to classrooms. Even while these exchanges are often spoken, there is a clear weakness when one examines how well we are doing as a group to reduce the detrimental effects associated with mental diseases. Imagine suffering emotionally and being deprived of access to overcome the situation, that is the harsh reality. Access to mental health services has never been as simple as approaching a healthcare supervisor for a physical ailment. We reside in a country where equal rights and “right to equality” is emphasized by almost every individual in distinct situations yet we fail to examine the equal distribution and accessibility to resources. These resources not only account to people from different backgrounds being on the same pace but also a healthy and compassionate society.

Overcoming Cyberspace Split 

Being citizens of India, routinely we have always been fundamentally linked to ideas like life insurance since our early years, having witnessed family members purchase policies from the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) and similar organizations. Yet even as legislators’ express hopes for revolutionary reform, a crucial mistake occurs: many citizens who live in distant or excluded regions lack access to basic necessities such as internet connectivity. The digital divide is a crucial contributor.  The incapacity of these people to utilize the digital sphere in this age of rapid technology improvement hinders both their growth path and overall exposure to balanced possibilities. Conversations on how society is changing frequently summarizes the need to value emotional intelligence (EQ) above everything else, placing it above IQ. Contrary to popular belief, IQ is not the best predictor of how people perform in work or leadership. Rather, Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is “the single biggest predictor of performance in the workplace and the strongest driver of leadership and personal excellence” (Bradberry & Greaves, n.d.).

Constraints of Terrain and Structures 

Unquestionably, geographic limitations stand out as the primary factors impeding unrestricted access to these essential services along with the unequal distribution of resources. Lack of infrastructure is another factor that adds onto the inaccessibility factor. Many clinical and counseling psychologists have their offices in a hospital setting due to a variety of reasons such as stability, networking, clientele etc.; these less developed infra-areas hamper the outreach to such specialists. Furthermore, the key to ease of use is hindered particularly by lack of awareness which is significantly influenced by the spatial constraint. Roughly 10–25% of older persons living in rural areas are thought to have diagnosable psychiatric conditions. These conditions call for specialized geriatric mental health care, many of which are not offered in rural areas (Morales, 2020).

Smashing the “Log Kya Kahenge” Mythology 

In addition, cultural factors play a significant role in this complex puzzle. The complexities of cultural subtleties, which are profoundly ingrained in various societies, make mental health accessibility more difficult. “Log kya kahenge” (what will others say) is an ongoing impact that permeates our lives in the Indian setting. This societal obsession frequently forces people to repress their feelings of psychological anguish, encouraging folks to suffer alone instead of getting help from behavioral healthcare specialists. Self-stigma is the result of internalizing public stigma. When persons with mental illnesses have stigmatizing attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors toward themselves, it is known as self-stigma (Yu et al., 2021). As a result, the deeply rooted fear of public opinion inhibits the availability of mental health treatments, which feeds the vicious cycle in which people suffer emotionally in private and miss out on the possible solace that could come from seeking professional help.

Besides Reminiscence and Economic Concern 

The prolonged stigma associated with calling those visiting psychologists, “psychopaths” is never ending. While scrolling our Instagram feed, we often come across memes claiming clubbing is cheaper than therapy. However, it has never been the other way around. This demands attention towards the socio-economic strata of society, not everyone around has the same financial condition. Considering the same from the vital standpoint, the cost of therapy, transportation and especially time off work for appointments cannot be afforded by all. Additionally, this reduces the community outreach and demoralizes individuals from a help seeking environment.

Silent Battle of the Millennials and Elderly 

Moreover, age-related constraints often lead to a divide in accessibility. This is usually because at a tender age such as that of an adolescent, for obvious reasons one by themselves cannot reach out for professional help. Secondly, at this age parents often overlook changes in behavioral patterns by associating them with growing age and development of the child. Lastly, the popular misconceptions and myths overpower the actual reason for a shift in conduct. A three- to four-year-old’s friendly demeanor and show of affection for family members are indicative of their emotional growth. An empathic youngster can relate to others emotionally and understand their feelings; for example, they can comfort and support a peer who is experiencing emotional distress (Alwaely et al., 2020).  Apart from adolescents, elderly individuals encounter barriers due to ageism and seeking out help seems to be a mere helpless task. Incorporating the values and preferences for healing practices is essential. This would foster acknowledging primary care and improved coordination.

An Inclusive Plan to Accomplish Change 

The change cannot be made by one but as a whole in the society through a collaborative method. The policymakers, citizens and healthcare professionals need to initiate towards building not only a physically healthier future but also psychologically sound so that no one is left behind. By upholding the value of such issues and by normalizing them instead of calling those in need “abnormal” the quality of life can be enhanced. The parenting patterns should solely be based on open communication to foster the emotional development of the child. In order to effectively address these cultural nuances, a sophisticated strategy that eliminates the stigma associated with psychological consultations is required. This involves creating an atmosphere in which seeking emotional help is not only acceptable but also embraced as a powerful first step towards achieving holistic well-being. In the end, this would lay the groundwork for empathic culture. Social service activities are beyond donation drives, they should consist of outreach programs so that people are not helped materialistically however feel heard and valued.

(About the Authors: Ms. Aamirah Makkar is an Undergraduate Psychology Majors Student at FLAME University, Pune and Dr. Garima Rajan is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at FLAME University, Pune.)


Alwaely, S. A., Yousif, N. B. A., & Mikhaylov, A. (2020, Jan 23). Emotional development in preschoolers and socialization. Early Child Development and Care, 191(16), 2484-2493.

Bradberry, T., & Greaves, J. (n.d.). Emotional Intelligence 2.0. google scholar.

Morales, D. A. (2020, may 04). A call to action to address rural mental health disparities. Journal of Clinical and Translational Science, 4(5), 463 – 467.

Yu, B. C.L., Chio, F. H.N., & Mak, W. W.S. (2021, July). Internalization process of stigma of people with mental illness across cultures: A meta-analytic structural equation modeling approach. Clinical Psychology Review, 87. Science Direct.