- Dr. Manoj Kumar is providing free mental healthcare to the rural population in Kerala.
- According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), talking openly about mental health is very important to reduce mental health stigma.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the prevalence of mental illness is 15% worldwide and India has one of the largest populations affected by mental health disorders. Studies have shown that mental health conditions cost over $1 trillion in a largely rural country like India.
In this crucial scenario, Dr. Manoj Kumar, a Kerala-based psychiatrist, is providing free mental healthcare to over 4000 people in his state. Ten years back, he left his UK job and flew back to India intending to take care of the mental health of the rural populations in Kerala. While talking about his initiative, Dr. Kumar said, “I could see that the governments are not doing enough to take care of mental illnesses and realized that a family-like model needs to be adopted to bring about a change.”
Mental Health Action Trust (MHAT), an organization founded by Kumar, works on a decentralized model to offer mental health care to the rural populations in Kerala. Kumar’s aim was to spread mental health awareness and expand it into different communities. As an outcome of his immense effort and hard work, more than 1000 volunteers of MHAT become the foremost contact between common people and the organization. Kumar later mentioned that the volunteers work as a support system that is available for people at any time of the day. He himself examined the patients and their psychological issues before directing them to the volunteers.
“We usually deal with severe mental disorders where families have to compromise in terms of having someone attend to the patient at all times, and invest a lot of their savings in their medicines. At any given day, we tend to about 2500 patients at MHAT,” Dr. Kumar added further. The organization’s decentralized model is working successfully with the patients and effectively dealing with a variety of mental health disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, anxiety, and schizophrenia. They don’t have to deal with a lot of mental health stigma, Kumar later mentioned.
MHAT depends on individual contributions to fund the salary of the volunteers and other requirements of treatments. NAMI experts suggest that talking openly about the importance of mental health is extremely important to eliminate mental health stigma from society. Everyone should encourage equality between physical and mental illness.