Experts meet at DMU to discuss ground breaking research into mental health


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Mental health issues faced by people migrating from rural areas to big cities could be addressed after experts in the field from the UK and India gathered to discuss latest research at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU).

DMU Professor of Mental Health, Raghu Raghavan, has previously told how his research found a slum community in western India had worked together to overcome mental health issues, without consultants or medication.

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Professor Raghu Raghavan

Yesterday, health experts from India and the UK, who worked on the project with Professor Raghavan, presented their findings at an event called Mental Health, Migration and Resilience.

Delegates were looking at how continuing the research can now inform public mental health professionals of potential ways communities deal with high levels of anxiety and depression globally.

It is hoped the research can then pave the way for initiating new practices to tackle mental health issues in both the UK and India.

Dr Ashok Dyalchand, founder of India’s Institute of Health Management Pachod, travelled to DMU to present his findings from the project, which spoke to people who had migrated from rural areas of India to the city of Pune.

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He said: “There are internal migrants in the UK itself and the associated problems are as apparent as they are in India. This particular study has really opened the door for a large amount of future research.

“It is normal to focus on the cause of mental health problems and how many people have an issue. Here, we now have an understanding about what the strengths are in people, and we can use that understanding to address mental health issues.”

Professor Sivakami Muthusamy, from research university Tata Institute of Social Sciences, in Mumbai, India, said: “The conversations about mental health tend to be about the problems we face, while this conference is about the resilience and looking at issues in a positive manner.”

Professor Dinesh Bhugra, Emeritus Professor of Mental Health at King’s College London, talked at the conference about migration and mental health challenges in the UK.

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Dr Ashok Dyalchand, Prof Santosh Chaturvedi and Prof Dinesh Bhugra

He said: “People move from rural areas to urban areas in the UK. They move to where the jobs are. We do not think about that and we should.

“Say someone moves from Lincolnshire to London. They may not be able to afford a property and we have to ask what does that do you to your self esteem when you have told people you are moving to a big city to be a success but end up sharing a house with lots of others. These things can become a major issue and we need to look at it.”

Professor Raghavan is leading the first research project of its kind that has looked at the resilience of men, women and children who have migrated to the Pune area from other parts of India.

Previous surveys had shown that the slum dwelling migrants frequently suffer higher levels of anxiety and depression.

The mental trauma of arriving in a new area, finding work, earning money, looking after family and ensuring there is a roof over their heads all add to the daily stress.

And yet, Professor Raghavan observed, without any mental health professionals or medication, the people in Pune were showing high levels of resilience in coping with these challenges.

After 18 months of field work interacting with families and listening to their stories Professor Raghavan and his team worked with Pune theatre group Swatantra to help the community put on a street play about their stories and celebrate their lives.

The underlying theme of the drama was to show to the communities that seeking help from the people you trust, showing compassion and working as a team all make for better mental health.

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The drama production in Pune

Professor Raghavan said: “We have been involved in an excellent Indian/UK research collaboration which is a great achievement for us as a research team and for the university.

“The Arts and Humanities Research Council are extremely happy with what we have done and now mental health and migration is one of the key things they want to help with as a research agenda internationally.

“We are now planning for the next step which will be intervention, with a much bigger team.”

The mental health and resilience project is being supported by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences in Bengaluru, the Institute of Health Management Pachod, Pune, and Swatantra theatre group in Pune.

Posted on Wednesday 23rd October 2019

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