GRAVIS’ efforts on mental health – World Mental Health Day, 2017

Meeting with an elderly GRAVIS colleague was today’s highlight for me. Fragile yet pleasant, impacted by a mental health disorder yet determined, confined with limited mobility yet hopeful, the senior person and the meeting with him educated me further on ageing and the all important mental health dimension – an inevitable path for many.

 A rapidly growing challenge in India and worldwide

Amidst many global health priorities, growing prevalence rates of mental health disorders continue to be a matter of concern. In India, for example, according to a survey report by National Institute for Mental Health and Neuro-Science (NIMHANS), the overall weighted mental morbidity is 13.7% for the lifetime. Persons from lower income quintiles are observed to have a greater prevalence of one or more mental disorders.  Various forms of dementia, depression and anxiety related disorders are severely impacting different population groups. While the mental health issues are mainly linked with population ageing, in recent times there has been a steady increase in the onset of metal health problems in the age group of 30 to 50.

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Likewise, globally too, mental health is a leading public health and development challenge. A World Health Organization factsheet suggests that currently, there are some 47 million people living with dementia and there are 10 million new cases reported every year.  In resource poor settings, the situation is more alarming due to poor facilities and inadequate human resources. As a result, older people in rural areas and those living under poverty are severely affected.

 The 2017 theme

The early onset of mental health disorders is often time associated with work place and work conditions. Accordingly, this year’s World Mental Health Day theme has been to address mental health at work place. Moving forward, working environments and work related stress will be important aspects to address.

 GRAVIS’ work on mental work

GRAVIS addresses mental health issues in several ways in its day to day work. We apply our resources and knowledge in multiple ways to combat mental health disorders, particularly in old age. A first set of our interventions is focused on training and capacity building of rural communities to enhance knowledge and awareness. Secondly, there is a strong emphasis to eliminate stigma and discrimination, and by doing so to strengthen the all important intergenerational linkages. And thirdly, to provide medical support in the form of counselling, screening and symptomatic treatment. Overall, our programmes cover a population of about 100,000 older people in a very holistic way. On World Mental Health Day, 2017, GRAVIS is organizing discussion meetings and awareness generation rallies in several remote villages.

 Future priorities

GRAVIS realizes the crucial human resource gap in addressing mental health disorders, and therefore a continued focus on training and capacity building is an important part of our future priorities. We are also keen to mainstream mental health in overall development programmes. We aim to work on enhancing community based care in the forms of advancing self care and by strengthening inter-generational linkages.

World Mental Health Day is an important day to remember the ones who are facing the challenges, but more importantly is an opportunity to renew the commitment to combat stigma and discrimination, to foster new partnerships and to be reminded that mental health affects us all in some way.

It is a battle for all of us to fight together, with solidarity.

Prakash Tyagi

Executive Director, GRAVIS

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