Research leads to series of short films exploring mental health in India

Residents of Kerala state in southwest India shared their experiences and understanding of living with mental illnesses for a research project led by De Montfort University Leicester (DMU).

MeHeLP India is a collaborative international interdisciplinary partnership that examines the applicability and promotion of mental health literacy (MHL) in urban and rural communities, using participatory theater, storytelling practices and short films.

As part of MeHeLP India, which aims to increase MHL to millions of people in India, researchers asked people in Kerala to consider the social, economic and cultural factors that impact their mental health.

They then asked people to share their stories on film, with the aim of raising awareness in urban, rural and tribal communities about poor mental health, as well as the stigma and discrimination associated with it.

“Our goal for this work is to identify the best way to build mental health support that is culturally relevant for specific communities. In this case, for people living in Kerala, ”explained Prof. Raghu Raghavan, head of MeHeLP India and professor of mental health at DMU.

“We wanted to work with communities and increase overall awareness of HLM in the context of Kerala. significantly. “

MeHeLP India’s work in Kerala has resulted in a range of innovative interactive drama productions and short films that tell stories of real people and explore various themes related to the promotion of MHL.

The films were presented at a dedicated “Kerala” and “Pan India” conference organized by MeHeLP India, where researchers were able to connect and meet a number of leading academic institutions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) across the ‘India, to share their work.

Among the dignitaries present were Ms Veena George, Minister of Health of the State of Kerala and Prof. Mohanan Kunnummel, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Health of Kerala, as well as speakers from Tata Trusts, Sangath India, Public Health Foundation of India, Schizophrenia Research Foundation India, Mariwala Health Initiative and the Live Love Laugh Foundation (initiated by famous Bollywood actress, Deepika Padukone).

The project also engaged the general public beyond the local communities involved in theatrical interventions to examine their own mental health skills with a range of lived experience-focused campaigns channeled through social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

MeHeLP India November 21

“We now have a repository of reusable mental health knowledge learning materials that reach a wider audience across India,” continued Prof Raghavan. “We know that using creative art forms to tell people’s stories can help others gain new knowledge and develop skills for their own mental health and well-being.

“We are already seeing these films being absorbed into the curriculum of universities based in Kerala and elsewhere, as well as being used for training health professionals and frontline workers as well.”

Researchers decided to work in Kerala for a number of reasons: it has a 100% literacy rate, the health index is comparable to that of western countries, and its life expectancy rate is higher than in the other states of India.

However, Kerala also has a higher percentage of mental illness compared to the rest of India and suicide rates are double the national average, which means the state has the highest suicide rate in the world. country.

Mrs Veena George, Minister of Health of the State of Kerala, said: “When it comes to mental health problems, the majority of our population cannot identify symptoms and disorders and do not use methods. evidence-based to deal with it. We need to examine why this is happening.

“Lack of awareness of mental health and mental illness has been cited as the reason. Along with this, there are many misconceptions related to mental illness. This is where MHL becomes important.

“Only a small percentage of people with mental health issues are able to get help and the absence of MHL poses a challenge as it prevents people from seeking mental health services at the right time.

“We have to make sure that mental health care is accessible to many more people. That is why our government plans to give mental health the same priority.

MeHeLP India is led by DMU alongside partners from Loughborough University, University College London (UCL), Middlesex University, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Indian National Institute of Mental Health and neuroscience (NIMHANS) and NGOs in India.

Launched in 2018 and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), MeHeLP India’s main goal is to raise awareness about mental health in rural and urban areas. communities through forms of theater, film and storytelling.

Posted on Monday, November 22, 2021

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