DMU to lead significant new mental health project in India

De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) is leading a significant international project to increase the mental health literacy of millions of people in India.

Raghu Raghavan, Professor of Mental Health at DMU, will lead a team of researchers from DMU as well as partners from Loughborough University, University College London (UCL), Middlesex University, Tata Institute of Social Sciences and India’s National Institute of Mental health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) as well as non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in India.

Raghu Raghavan 1

Working with mental health users and their families, this project will gather real experiences relating to the level of awareness of mental illness in both urban and rural communities in the state of Kerala in Southern India.

Researchers will then work with theatre experts in India and the UK to develop an interactive theatre production that will be used to inform local people about mental health literacy.

The project also aims to raise wider awareness of mental health issues in Kerala, India and beyond by working with Indian television stations, newspapers and social media so that more people are able to recognise the signs of mental ill-health and seek appropriate help and support.

The work will focus on four districts of Kerala which have a total population of 16 million.

Professor Raghavan explained: “We decided to work in Kerala because it has a very different setup to the rest of India; it has 100% literacy and the health index is on par with Western countries, it also has higher life expectancy than other states of India. The higher life expectancy and high levels of education mean that it is worthy of study because it represents the direction in which other regions in India desire to travel.

“But there is a higher percentage of mental illness in Kerala compared to the rest of India and the suicide rates are double the national average, so we thought this would be a good state to work with.

“We’ve developed the links that are required for this truly international interdisciplinary research project with partners from both the UK and India.

“Mental health literacy is very much a Western concept, so this project is mainly about creating more awareness, and developing a model of culturally appropriate mental health literacy in the Indian context. We want to engage with the population and create a mass conversation about mental health awareness.”

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Over £680,000 of cross-council funding for the three-year interdisciplinary project has been provided by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

It is the second DMU project led by Professor Raghavan to be awarded GCRF funding following research into the mental health of internal migrants in the city of Pune in India and will build on existing collaborations between DMU and organisations in India.

It also reflects DMU’s commitment to carrying out research with international impact.

Professor Raghavan said: “This project will have a real global impact and is very much aligned with DMU’s strategy to embed the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in our work.

“We will be encompassing at least four of the SDGs into our work which relate to good health and wellbeing, gender equality, decent work and economic growth and reduced inequalities.”
Posted on Thursday 27 September 2018

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