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Developing a new model for improving access to psychiatric care in rural India

Today on the Atlantic health channel, there's an interesting post examining why a specialist-based system for psychiatric care is ineffective in India and how local mental-health advocates' are working to forge a new model for delivering mental health services. Christie Thompson writes:

On paper, the Indian government has taken significant steps toward providing mental health care for its 1.2 billion citizens. The National Mental Health Programme, launched in 1982, mandating that basic psychiatric care be provided in every government-run primary health center. The government provides basic training for all primary health center doctors, and pays for psychiatric medication to be stocked and available to patients.

"At the central level, there seems to be good progress," says David Nash, CEO of Indian mental health non-profit the Banyan. "At the implementation level, it's a disaster." Out of 626 districts across India, 125 have some mental health programming in place, Nash says.


The Indian Mental Health Policy Group hopes to redirect the psychiatric focus of the mental health movement toward more holistic healing. In late June, the group released a set of policy proposals for the District Mental Health Program. The Group advised a national "focus on improved quality of life of the client vs. mere symptom reduction... [including] the need for social protection and effective poverty reduction policies."

"The whole country is moving toward this paradigm shift, where we're looking at mental health from a well-being, development lens, and less from an illness sort of lens," [Vandana Gopikumar, a member of the Indian Mental Health Policy Group] says. "As far as possible, have treatment available locally. And treatment doesn't just mean popping pills."

Previously: What I did this summer: Stanford medical student helps India nonprofit create community-health maps and Stanford researchers work to curb obesity, hunger in India
Photo by McKay Savage

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