Community Mental Health in India

multiple hands on top of one another symbolising togetherness

The strongest fundamental that community psychiatry upholds is that it functions on the basis of ‘inclusion’ which involves every dimension of oppression, be it gender, class, caste, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status. Another value it adheres to is something called ‘depowerment’ which states that to work with people within the community along with a so, it is crucial that professionals de-power themselves in terms of their privileges in order to synchronise themselves with the people they are working with.

Sharma, Prateek. How community mental health can be the answer to India’s growing mental health crisis. Firstpost. 28th June 2019.

Prateek Sharma writing for Firstpost traces the growth of community psychiatry with a focus on India and looks at how this might be an effective way to not only bridge the treatment gap but also become a way to address structural issues (gender/caste/class) in recovery.

If mental illness is socially produced then it is extremely important to address the communities that hold such productions. In a country like India it also helps in stemming the kind of isolation that families and those living with mental health issues face.

Patel, Vikram. Mental Health For All By All. 7th Feb 2013.

A link that I found in this article looks at the work of Prof. Vikram Patel who speaks here in this video about the concept of task shifting – a way of empowering those within the community into providing mental health services to the community. Trials have proven that this has been an extremely successful way in bringing down rates of depression and suicide.

Although I completely support the reaching out to involve the community I’m still apprehensive about the basis of understanding of mental illness and its treatment here. It is still framed within an idea of ‘disease’ with the answer being medication and community based interventions are seen as “an adjuvant service”. I do think community based interventions such as the Hearing Voices Network reframe how we think of mental illness and thereby are far more political and radical in their work at undoing how we frame those who live distress and whose coping mechanisms tend to be pathologised as disease in need of medication.

Photo courtesy: Perry Grone on Unsplash

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