India severely lacks the facilities, programs, personnel and capacity to address mental health issues of its vast population. According to a report from the country’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, even though the country requires over 50,000 health professionals, it only has about 7,000—a huge gap in access to health care professional for Indian people. Because of the lack of resources and social stigmas surrounding mental health, many people in the country do not have appropriate mental health literacy. The cultural stigmas surrounding mental health issues greatly impede those individuals with mental health conditions and severe emotional distress, and are often reluctant to seek help.
To bridge this considerable gap between the need for mental health services and its availability, nonprofit Sangath is training people at the community level to be lay-counselors, people who undergo training to provide counseling services to those who do not have access to professionally-trained mental health service providers. People with at least a 10th grade education are being given an intensive workshops by mental health professionals on how to talk to people with depression or alcoholism. They are then tasked with assisting people in their community who suffer from different mental health issues and provide them counseling.
There is still a debate around the world in the mental health community about whether people with much less training than a psychologist and psychiatrist can deliver proper care. The practice of using lay counselors is only in its pilot phase, but two evaluations of the program has shown it to be quite successful and promising. Sangath is now looking to expand the program into more communities. Currently the program is only offered in two India states.
Read the full story here (via The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting)
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