International Conference on Mental Wellness in Communities

Adrika Sengupta (Anjali) is the guest contributor for this blog and has been associated with Anjali since 2014. She is the Manager of the Research & Liaison department of ARC (Advocacy, Research and Campaign Programme) at Anjali. She has Masters Degrees from TISS, Mumbai and King’s College London.

As stakeholders in mental health care, we realise the inadequacy in the quality and quantity of resources available for mental health services. It has been estimated that DALYs (Disability Adjusted Life Years) because of mental health conditions will represent 15 per cent of the global burden of diseases by 2020. It is expected by 2025, 38.1 million years of healthy life are to be lost to mental health disorders in India - a 23% increase. Mental health service statistics in India unilaterally looks at the number of beds, psychiatrists, psychiatric social workers, psychotherapists and medicines (whether first or second generation). A significant ‘treatment gap’ is said to exist based on these statistics.

There is an inherent problem in the assumption behind the treatment gap: that the large void in treatment is because of shortage of relevant mental health services. Perhaps it is worthwhile to consider that people could be dissatisfied with the service itself, rather than the lack of it.

Hence, addressing the mental health treatment gap cannot be achieved merely by extending and rearranging presently available services alone. Adaptation of treatments and the development of novel service-delivery models with greater local relevance and empirically supported effectiveness should be a key focus. Arguably, the framing of ‘mental health’ as a global priority, and the push for a ‘global norm for mental health’ not only ignores local realities, but also works to discredit, replace and sideline local frameworks for responding to distress.       

Mental Wellness in Communities Conference

The Mental Wellness in Communities Conference is a step towards appreciating a community’s contribution to mental health and wellness. This conference seeks to encourage application of the emergent knowledge and information from the work of frontline mental health workers, and form a National Alliance on Mental Health with participating organisations to unify and carry forward the task of increasing access to mental healthcare services.

The themes of the conference focus on:

  • Re-conceptualizing existing paradigms of diagnosis and difficulty
  • Breaking down silos – how different models fit together
  • How do lay professionals deal with issues around gender and sexuality in the community?
  • How competent are lay professionals in addressing women’s issues?
  • Challenges faced by lay professionals in the community

This first-of-its-kind conference ((funded by Hans Foundation), organised by Anjali and Sangath -  NGOs working in the field of mental health care – aims to provide a safe space for lay mental health workers to voice their experiences at the frontline of mental healthcare delivery in low-resource communities. These foot soldiers of mental health based in organizations in various parts of the country will share their experiences – from what goes on behind the success of numbers, to the challenges they face every day and their success stories.

Through this conference, we seek to facilitate a meaningful dialogue on task sharing with the aim of breaking the hegemony of mainstream service providers who cater to a very limited part of the needs of the total population and to celebrate the lay mental health workers’ contribution to the mental health sector at a grassroots level. We hope that the conference eventually results in more dialogue and exchange of ideas on maximising the potential of frontline care.                         

If you are interested in attending, check out this forum post with more event details and information on how to register. We hope to see you there!

Primary care
Specialist care
Empowerment and service user involvement
Task sharing
All disorders
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