Mental Health Literacy – The New Indian Express
Express news service
ERNAKULAM: Stigma, blind traditional beliefs, discrimination and general lack of awareness. These are some of the factors due to which mental health and its various aspects remain a major concern in Kerala, particularly with the state reporting one of the highest suicide rates in the country. In an effort to break the shackles of conventional mentalities, the Mental Health Literacy Project (MeHeLP) has coordinated with various NGOs and raised awareness of the issue through art.
“Given the high prevalence of mental health issues in Keral, we chose the state to conduct a study and raise awareness in the community, helping them learn to cope with and live with it,” says Raghu Raghavan, principal investigator of MeHeLP. professor at De Montfort University in the United Kingdom.
MeHeLP India is a research project launched in 2018, aimed at raising awareness of mental health in rural and urban communities using theater. A team of academics and artists led by Raghu launched the project funded by the UK Global Challenges Research Fund and the Economic and Social Research Council. Data shows that 14.4% of the state’s population aged 18 and over suffer from mental health problems once in their lifetime, with 12.5% of individuals developing a risk of suicide.
The arts help tell stories to impart new knowledge and develop skills and practices for mental health and well-being, Raghu says. “That’s why we say culturally appropriate mental health literacy is the need of the moment. He resorted to alcohol and eventually became aggressive towards those around him, including his wife, and was ostracized from the family.
After a suicide attempt, he was hospitalized. “Things only got better after I took medication for my addiction and worked on behavior changes. Now my goal is to work and take care of my children, ”he says. In partnership with the NGOs Mental Health Action Trust and the Mental Health Care and Research Foundation, MeHeLP conducted a study in four districts – Palakkad, Kozhikode, Malappuram and Ernakulam. Some of the themes of the plays were the lived experience of mental illness, substance abuse, domestic violence, stigma and isolation, the need for mental health education in schools, the focus on children and the elderly.