Need to make mental health services accessible to marginalised sections
With the objective of mainstreaming conversations on mental health and its intersections with other prevailing socio-economic and environmental issues, Mariwala Health Initiative organised a workshop in New Delhi early today.
Highlighting the need for a rights-based, psychosocial approach to mental health, the workshop underlined the need to move away from a narrow, biomedical approach to mental health to one that is more inclusive and holistic. The speakers also elaborated on the significance of community-based solutions for mental health issues and the need for an intersectional approach to mental health in workplaces.
A number of healthcare professionals, activists, and academics, representatives from Mariwala Health Initiative including Raj Mariwala, Director, Priti Sridhar, CEO and Anam Mittra, Lead of New Initiatives, Dr Achal Bhagat, Psychiatrist, Apollo Hospital and Priscilla Giri, Researcher, DLR Prerna, a Darjeeling-based NGO that works on various community initiatives were present on the occasion.
Speaking about the need for redefining the approach to mental health, Raj Mariwala said, “Mental health is a development issue and must not be viewed in isolation from the prevailing socio-economic and environmental landscape. At present, discussions on mental health are largely seen from a biomedical perspective and need to focus on psychosocial realities. Mental health interventions need to be community-led and delivered by persons who are aware of the lived realities of the persons they service.”
“There is a need to step back and stop looking at mental health as an individual issue. Each of us experiences society from our respective social locations. Solving mental health issues is not a simple equation of access to services, but of interrogating discrimination and disparities in society. It is important for media to bring this understanding while reporting on issues, not just related directly to mental health, but also while highlighting issues related to health systems, lack of affordable housing, labour laws and climate change,” said Priti Sridhar.
Speaking on the role of media in shaping the discourse on mental health, Psychiatrist Dr. Achal Bhagat Psychiatrist said, “When talking about mental health, what one does not say is as important as what one does say. Conversations that layer the myths about mental health need to be avoided. These are: linking mental health to incapacity; correlating violence and mental health problems. What must be focused upon: mental health problems are common, and it is alright to seek help; lack of resources for mental health services, inadequate number and training of professionals. Keeping expectations from treatment reasonable. There are no magical cures, but help is available.”
While access to mental health services is an issue affecting several groups in India, there is a case to be made for community-based models.
“While media frequently reports on treatment gaps, it is the care gap that needs to be highlighted. MHI’s work is proof that we don’t need expensive, expert-led models for mental health care. We need to seed more such community-based models, where the community being the expert in their issues is empowered to deliver mental health services themselves,” remarked Researcher Priscilla Giri.