The coronavirus pandemic has affected all of us, irrespective of our class, gender and profession. While some of us are worried about financial security, others are finding it difficult to deal with isolation and uncertainty of life.
It won't be wrong to say that mental illnesses are an increasingly prevalent part of the new normal.
So it doesn't come as a surprise that the talk around mental health is gaining momentum everywhere - popular advice being - seek help.
Now here's where it gets a little tricky, because taking help from a therapist isn't that easy as it seems to others advocating it. It brings with it several financial, physical and mental challenges as rightly pointed out by a Twitter user, Karnika Kohli.
Recently, Karnika shared her experience of dealing with mental health issues, so that everyone out there knows what it is like.
I HAVE SPENT Rs 1,61,800 SO FAR TRYING TO TAKE CARE OF MY MENTAL HEALTH.— Karnika (@KarnikaKohli) July 21, 2020
TW: anxiety, depression
Now that I have your attention with all that clickbait and all caps yelling, read this #thread.
TL; DR: WE NEED A BETTER HEALTHCARE SYSTEM!
She starts by saying that she is a privileged woman who was able to afford mental health services in India. This is important because we may normally not realise how expensive seeking right therapy could be.
I am a straight, upper caste, middle class, cishet woman - putting this out there in the beginning just so that you have context.— Karnika (@KarnikaKohli) July 21, 2020
I am privileged enough to be able to afford healthcare but it is still a LOT. (3/n)
Been in therapy for 1 year and 11 months, she lists out the challenges one could face while seeking help.
1. Finding a therapist is not easy— Karnika (@KarnikaKohli) July 21, 2020
2. Not necessary the first (or second or third) one you find will be a good fit for you.
3. You don't see 'results' for like months. Therapy is like a marathon. You have to keep doing the work. In my case, it took almost 9 months before I realised that growth for me was being able to recognise some of my triggers. (7/n)— Karnika (@KarnikaKohli) July 21, 2020
4. Going from one therapist to another is too damn exhausting because you don't get to TL;DR your life there. You have to start from scratch every single time. Thankfully I didn't have to do that and got lucky the first time itself. (8/n)— Karnika (@KarnikaKohli) July 21, 2020
Just when we think we can overcome all of this, she gets to the most important aspect of seeking therapy - money.
Let's talk money now. Most therapists in a city like Delhi charge between 1000 rs to anywhere up to 4000 rs for an hour-long session.— Karnika (@KarnikaKohli) July 21, 2020
When I started, my therapist used to charge 2000 rs/session. 4 sessions in a month for a year = 4 x 12 x 2000 = Rs 96,000
After that I took a break for 8-9 months and when I went back in August 2019, the cost/session was Rs 2200. This time I decided to do two sessions/month. So till now (my most recent session was yesterday), I have spent -- 2 x 12 x 2200 = Rs 52,800— Karnika (@KarnikaKohli) July 21, 2020
Total amount spent in therapy so far = Rs 1,48,800— Karnika (@KarnikaKohli) July 21, 2020
(damn! this is the first time I've calculated this.)
Btw, this doesn't include the cost incurred to travel to the therapist's clinic and back.
This is huge. For a country that is still learning how to talk about mental health, spending lakhs of rupees on therapy is something that is still far from feasible.
That's not the end. There's more to it. Karnika goes on to explain how her anxiety gave birth to insomnia and loss of appetite. For someone who loved cooking and eating, just the thought of food made her nauseous.
So she decided to go to a General Physician who in turn suggested her to consult a psychiatrist, which again 'costs' a lot.
Now, let's talk money again. I booked an online consultation. Cost/consultation: Rs 3500.— Karnika (@KarnikaKohli) July 21, 2020
He asked me to get tests done. Cost of that: Rs 6500.
And then a follow up after two weeks: Rs 3000.
Another followup scheduled after three weeks. (17/n)
And of course there are cheaper options available out there but I wanted to go to someone who came with good recommendations because this shit is scary. like so scary. not gonna get into the stigma attached to pills.— Karnika (@KarnikaKohli) July 21, 2020
So in total I have spent Rs 1,61,800 so far on mental health.
Through this thread, she wants to bring to fore the reality of healthcare system in India, especially when it comes to mental health. In a country where 7.5% of the population is affected by mental health issues, this is really important. Moreover, reports suggest that there are just 4,000 experts all over the country.
Now we know how difficult it can be to find the right therapist and also the one we can afford.
The moral of the story being - We need a better healthcare system, now.
WE NEED A BETTER HEALTHCARE SYSTEM (like now).— Karnika (@KarnikaKohli) July 21, 2020
Please share and tag your elected officials.
At a time when most of us are affected in one way or the other, it assumes importance that we make ourselves available for those who need us.
Let's start by normalising talks about mental health.