A better life, a healthier mind

In recent years, the impact of mental illness on the social and economic health of nations has been well understood, placing mental ill health as one of the leading causes of disability adjusted life years (DALY) worldwide. There has been much focus on early intervention, integration of mental health into primary care, stigma reduction and access to affordable health care, all very relevant and essential policy recommendations.

However, Vandana Gopikumar, founder of The Banyan, suggests that this approach may not be addressing a related and critical area sufficiently: mental health. She argues that focus has thus far been on a tertiary, crisis resolution mode with negligible focus on prevention — a necessity, in order to improve society’s collective quality of life and plan for mental health gains.

Gopikumar imagines as a mental health-focused "Social Prescribing" response in low-resource settings such as India, where the ecosystem could often precipitate stressful living conditions. Social Prescribing is often used for vulnerable groups such as people experiencing homelessness, persons affected with mental health issues, single parents and people living in poverty and experiencing deprivation.

The idea is to prescribe access to benefits, information, exercise, spirituality, social contact, employment, volunteering for a cause, peer support and participation in self help groups, social enterprises and so on to ensure that those who are preoccupied with the ‘here and now’ overwhelming issues of abject poverty and ill health have fresh insights and options to live life differently.

Publication Date: 
The Hindu