Contact Us
Mental Health
Financial advice
Youth Matters
Techno Corner

Sushama Kirtikar



Day after day, we watched the stock market tumble, banks vanish overnight, homes confiscated and dreams turn to rubble. The global economic crisis took on the guise of a giant roller coaster ride with twists and turns that were stomach churning. On Oct. 3, history was made with the passage of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 popularly known as the 'bailout bill.' While the spotlight was on the financial morass, embedded in the recesses of the bill were unrelated provisions, including Mental Health parity known as the Paul Wellstone-Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.

Simply put, it means that all private health insurance plans have to offer mental health/ substance abuse coverage as part of their package, making it equal to the coverage for any physical ailments. National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) had put out urgent messages of "Mental illnesses are real," "Treatment works - if you can get It," "There is no justification for a health plan to impose limitations or conditions on mental illness treatment that do not apply to all other medical conditions." Congress heard.

Finally, it appears mental health has arrived. It gets a nod of approval from the legislature as worthy of equal coverage. It is a bona fide concern. It is not made up and 'just in our heads.' This is a cause for celebration. Perhaps now, you won't hesitate to enquire about your mental health coverage openly. Perhaps now, you won't balk to access the Employee Assistance Program at work, which is strictly confidential and no employer has the right to know of your visit to an EAP professional, unless it was mandated by your employer, in the first place.

Why has it taken so long for lay people to recognize that mental health issues are real, distressing and require attention as much as physical problems? South Asian American clients tell me "I cannot tell my spouse/parents that I am coming to see you. Please do not call me at home." So, the mental health professional gets to be the invisible clinician who provides treatment under the shroud of secrecy. It is simply appalling. Friends and family members whisper, "Please don't tell anyone I am seeing a psychiatrist. You know, how it is, they wouldn't understand." It appears it may be perfectly acceptable to announce a visit to the plastic surgeon for an aesthetically enhancing procedure than it is to disclose that one has decided to heal psychologically and stop the suffering. This, my friends, is the 21st century and we still speak in an undertone about getting psychological help.

"After years of parity proponents battling one of the core causes of the stigma and discrimination associated with behavioral health care, this landmark bill promises to make mental health and substance-related disorders treated the same under law as any other physiological disorder!" states a report from the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Perhaps, now people will take heed after all the law has just done so.

Sushama Kirtikar, a licensed mental health counselor in private practice, can be reached at (813) 264-7114 or e-mail at

Contact Information
The Editor:
Send mail to with questions or comments about this web site. Copyright 2004 Khaas Baat.

Anything that appears in Khaas Baat cannot be reproduced, whether wholly or in part, without permission. Opinions expressed by Khaas Baat contributors are their own and do not reflect the publisher's opinion.

Khaas Baat reserves the right to edit and/or reject any advertising. Khaas Baat is not responsible for errors in advertising or for the validity of any claims made by its advertisers. Khaas Baat is published by Khaas Baat Communications.