Questioning is the art of learning. For a disease as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open my depression to my parents? Can you count meditation as a treatment for depression? Should indifference be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel composed of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to defend the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was part of an event organized by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.
According to a National Survey of Indian Mental Health 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders they affect almost 10% of the population, and 1 in 20 people in India suffer from depression. The survey reported a large treatment gap, a problem that extends throughout the country's urban and rural areas.
On October 10, the trustees of the foundation, Anna Chandy, Dr. Shyam Bhat and Nina Nair, along with its founder, Deepika Padukone, paid a visit to the community health project center in Devangere, Karnataka The project, initiated by the Association of People with Disabilities (APD) in 2010, received a much needed boost after partnering with TLLLF 2 years ago, helping them reach 819 people with mental illnesses and spreading their program to 6 Taluks, making a difference on a larger scale.
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During the visit, the TLLLF team met with patients and their families to obtain information about the effectiveness and impact of the program. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the problems he faced due to his illness. He shared how people used to call him crazy and threatened to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in obtaining access to medical assistance for which they had to travel to the next largest city, Shivmoga, which is about 2 hours from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present among the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their problems and challenges, which led to a more evolved and useful conversation.
The process of destigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who suffer requires a strong bond of partners to make progress in a holistic way. Initially, bringing together different stakeholders was difficult due to the lack of knowledge and resources in the field of mental health. But the project found its foundation once it established a support network of NIMHANS doctors who treated patients in the health camps, the doctors of the Primary Care Center and the ASHA workers. During their visit, the TLLLF team together with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Did the beneficiaries have access to free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help reduce the distance that patients had to travel to receive treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even among the partners, there was a greater sense of support and receptivity towards mental health help.
The next stage of the visit took the TLLLF team to the town of Bilichodu, where they met with a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, the mother of Deepika Padukone, who was also a caregiver, was also present at the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team generated a progressive attitude within the group by discussing the future employment possibilities and livelihood options available to patients.
As the TLLLF team honored World Mental Health Day, 2017 by visiting families, participating with support groups and reviewing the successes and challenges in rural mental health care, they noticed how the conversation, which was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive attitude towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organization outlined the following steps that will further enrich the dialogue around mental health, both in urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing mental health research, improving the role of social networks in raising awareness and decreasing stigma and expanding current programs. To know more, look here.
This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of the Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.