Mumbai, 20 October, 2021 – Poddar Foundation, a registered trust, which focuses on creating awareness about mental health issues prevalent in India, conducted a mental health awareness session for the self-help group (Mavim) of Hal village, Raigad Dist. in Maharashtra in September 2021. The awareness session was conducted for two hours and included 15 members from the self-help group.
Self-help groups in India are one of the most powerful incubators of female entrepreneurship and resilience in rural areas. It is also a powerful channel for altering the social construct of gender in villages. Self-help groups are made up of individuals who share the same or a similar concern or issue. Apart from being consequential in promoting economic growth for the members, self-help groups help address a wide range of issues, including physical disabilities, emotional concerns, eating and food issues, addiction, bereavement, and illness.
The mental health awareness session started with some ice-breaking activities so as to make the members of the self-help group comfortable in sharing their feelings and seek help. Various aspects of mental health issues like depression, anxiety, stress and other psychological disturbances among women were discussed in the session. Since these women intervene in village communities to help fight issues like domestic violence and substance abuse, these issues were discussed in detail during the awareness session.
Speaking about the initiative, Dr Prakriti Poddar, Managing Trustee of Poddar Foundation said “Mental illness is a substantial public health burden in India. Nearly 70 million people in India experience some form of mental illness, of which many have limited to no access to mental health support and treatment. Research has shown that 80 to 90% of people in rural areas who require help for mental health issues remain untreated. So, the mental health gap is huge. Also, people with mental health issues often face discrimination in their communities, which can reduce willingness to seek help from mental health care providers. At the village level in the country, mental health care is primarily provided through community mental health workers and non-specialised health workers like self-help groups. Self-help groups are a vital resource in our rural communities. Through this programme, these members would be trained on the basic principles of mental health. This would enable them to help persons under stress and facing other mental health issues. They can then make the appropriate referrals to nearby treatment centres.”
As part of the mental health awareness program, coping skills were also discussed and how as community workers the self-help group can understand the difficult situations of the people of the village and help them. Some of the members of the group also shared some experiences of domestic violence and alcoholism in the village and especially spoke about the stigma attached to seeking help.
“In rural India, the challenges of addressing mental health issues are particularly significant. India lacks resources in the field, and most of the available resources are located in major cities or highly urbanised states. People are mostly unaware of the mental health issues they are suffering from. They take it as their fate: go to religious healers or quacks. That’s why there’s a stigma attached to mental health issues. The scarcity of medical professionals and healthcare infrastructure deepens the stigma surrounding mental Health issues in villages. However, through community-based approaches with the help of self-group groups it becomes easier to unite local communities and health workers, and to end prejudices and misconceptions about mental health issues” said Neha S Shah, Head Projects at Poddar Foundation.
The mental health awareness session was much appreciated by the members of the self-help group (Mavim) of Hal village. They felt that their knowledge about mental health has been enhanced through the initiative and they’re in a better position to seek help. The women of the group also mentioned that such sessions help them in coping with their own issues and remain mindful.
About Poddar Foundation: Poddar Foundation is a registered Trust has been working in the field of mental health awareness since 2016. Poddar Foundation is devoted in creating critical awareness on the looming mental health crisis in India. Since 2016, Poddar Foundation conducts its offline and online activities through the project ‘Silence Todo’, which works to break the stigma, shame and silence around mental health. Poddar Foundation works with schools, teachers, government organizations, gram panchayats, social workers, anganwadis and communities in order to spread awareness and create a support network for the people. Poddar Foundation has also created a digital repository of knowledge and support on online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. in order to reach a higher number of people with key awareness issues.