India is the second most populous country in the world and leads the number of cases of child sexual abuse and child sexual exploitation. In 2013, a study by the Indian Journal of Psychiatry mentioned that half of all Indian children have suffered some form of sexual abuse and one in five has suffered severe forms of abuse.
A culture of shaming the victims allows perpetrators to roam freely and abused children to carry scars to adulthood, which often leads to persistent mental health problems. At the same time, the lack of mental health professionals and a history of stigmatization make mental health care a colossal challenge.
Social workers, mental health professionals and organizations are trying to adopt a community-based approach to combat mental health problems. Ashwini N.V., a mental health and academic professional, believes that community initiatives that focus on capacity building can provide psychotherapy and also help close the gaps in mental health care.
According to a report by the World Health Organization, only 0.3 psychiatrists, 0.07 psychologists and 0.07 social workers are available for every 100,000 inhabitants to address the mental health problems of a growing population. Compare it with the data presented in a report of the 2018 National Mental Health Survey, which states that 150 million people need mental health treatment. Closing this gap is a huge task.
Mental Health in India is a huge issue that needs to be addressed! Our mental health budget is still negligible compared to other countries. https://t.co/dfiSDwQEqJ#mentalhealth #MentalHealthMatters #MentalHealthAwareness #mentalhealthinindia #mentalhealthbudget pic.twitter.com/ZPWUokAndt
– rhea saupin (@rheacolette) August 11, 2018
Mental health in India is a huge problem that must be addressed! Our mental health budget remains negligible compared to other countries.
While most organizations work in the field of mental health or abuse prevention, Ashwini founded and directs the Muktha Foundation, which unites the two facets. Ashwini divides his time between the direction of the foundation, conducting training workshops, counseling and teaching. In an interview conducted at the foundation's office in Bangalore, he spoke about the organization's double mandate and the need to pay attention to mental health problems:
While counting and doing community work, I observed that most of my clients who came for counseling had a history of abuse, in one form or the other. It also came to my notice that both the perpetrators of abuse and the survivors more often than not suffered from some form of mental distress.
While advising and doing community work, I observed that the majority of clients who came for advice had one or another form of abuse history. I also realized that both perpetrators of abuse and survivors frequently suffered from some form of mental anguish.
Based on these incidental observations, Ashwini joined other social workers, mental health professionals and organizations to develop a platform in which abuse prevention is considered an important step to ensure mental and psychological well-being.
Bhaya Muktha (freedom from fear) is one of the foundation's ambitious initiatives in the area of child sexual abuse. The foundation works in the prevention of sexual abuse of minors and in the fight against mental illnesses caused by traumas suffered by survivors:
We ran the first phase of program for three months beginning from January 1 to March 31 this year. Bhaya Muktha covered all 26 states and three union territories of India. We conducted eight programs each in the capitals of the states and in union territories with different stakeholders including doctors, police, parents, teachers, children and healthcare professionals. We equipped participants to identify symptoms of sexual abuse in children and trained healthcare professionals to use different approaches to counsel the survivors.
We carry out the first phase of the program for three months, from January 1 to March 31 of this year. Bhaya Muktha covered the 26 states and three territories of the Indian Union. We carry out eight programs in the state capitals and in the territories of the union with different stakeholders, such as doctors, police officers, parents, teachers, children and health professionals. We trained participants to identify the symptoms of sexual abuse in children and trained health professionals to use different approaches to advise survivors.
India is a linguistically diverse country. Through a nationwide initiative, the foundation has identified people who are trained and willing to work in their own communities. These trained groups work in different regions with two approaches: First, they address the fight against stigmas and myths related to child sexual abuse. Second, they work to ensure the mental well-being of children who have survived sexual abuse.
In the second stage of the program, the people of Muktha have the goal of cities in the interior of India and gradually break up in the provinces to develop capacities.
Apart from child sexual abuse, Muktha also addresses problems interpersonal violence, dating violence, domestic violence, intimidation and cybercrime. In the last two years, its members and associates have organized several workshops in educational institutions, non-governmental organizations and workplaces. As an academic, Ashwini also feels that there is a need to bring the abuse to light:
We are rolling out a 45-hour certificate course on the psychology of interpersonal violence with one of the universities in Bengaluru (Bangalore). These initiatives are important to make people talk about issues surrounding abuse and mental well-being.
We are developing a 45-hour certified course on psychology of interpersonal violence with a university in Bangalore. These initiatives are important to make people talk about issues related to abuse and mental well-being.
Mental health problems increase day by day, and conventional therapeutic approaches should be complemented with more innovative approaches. Ashwini and his colleagues participate in a research program called Muktha Abhivyaktha (expressions of liberation):
Psychotherapy needs to go beyond the conventional approach of talk. Sometimes it is difficult for people to express trauma verbally. Art, theater, dance, storytelling, music, writing and other forms of expression have great potential in this area.
Psychotherapy needs to go beyond the conventional approach of speaking. Sometimes it is difficult to express the trauma verbally. Art, theater, dance, storytelling, music, writing and other forms of expression have great potential in this area.
Despite the initiatives undertaken by organizations such as Muktha, mental health remains a great difficulty for professionals, legislators and citizens of India.
Several industry experts think that mental health should be a right. A great victory on this front was the mental health care law of 2017. The law contains provisions on the rights of people with mental illnesses to due care, safety and dignity. However, there is a gap in the need and the provision of care.
In India, a more human rights-based mental health approach is being sought from several fronts. “Bridge the Care Gap” is a campaign that seeks to generate public opinion on this issue:
The State needs to take far more agressive steps to implement the Mental Health Care Act and Policy. #BridgeTheCareGap advocates for just that. Lend your voice. Sign the Petition https://t.co/0hEpTEWF50
– Harsh Mariwala (@hcmariwala) April 13, 2019
Help us reach the million! Spread this request with your family and friends.
The State needs to take much more aggressive measures to implement the mental health law. Bridge The Care Gap defends that. Lend your voice. Sign the petition.
Why #BridgeTheCareGap in mental health?
If effective and humane mental health care services are made available, accessible and affordable, then 150 million Indians living with mental health issues can avail treatments that help them avoid chronic… https://t.co/ZjFtJMchTR
– Nandita Das (@nanditas) April 7, 2019
Help us reach the million! Spread this request with your family and friends.
Why bridge the gap in mental health services?
If effective and human mental health services are available, accessible and can be paid, then 150 million Indians with mental health problems can take advantage of treatments that can help prevent them from becoming chronic.
As awareness of mental health increases and the need to address the existing gap becomes more imminent, many more community initiatives are needed to alleviate the mental health crisis in India.