Helping People with Mental Illness in India’s Villages

Mental illness accounts for 12% of the overall disease burden in India. The actual number of people suffering depression is unknown, but estimates suggest the prevalence rate is about 30%. Of these, a staggering 90% do not have access to care.

Providing care for people with mental illness is a huge task. To begin with, there are very few psychiatrists. There is also a widespread stigma leading to discrimination such that those who need help do not seek it. It is necessary to educate the public so that they understand that it is normal to seek help. Open discussion and dialogue helps to create a more inclusive environment.

EHA’s Community Health and Development department began a focus on mental health in 2010. There are only four psychiatrists serving in our larger hospitals. Clearly this is not enough and so a community based mental health programme was established. Village folk are trained to look after those who suffer mental illness.


  • Comprehensive community based mental health projects.
  • Developing an alternate cadre to reduce dependency on doctors & nurses.
  • Training general physicians to deal with common mental disorders.
  • Mainstreaming mental health into other community projects.
  • Capacity building to facilitate inclusion of mental health into existing projects.

Progress made

  • EHA teams visited established mental health programs to learn from them.
  • Position paper on mental health was developed.
  • Training material developed for allied health workers.
  • Training of general physicians to treat common mental disorders.

EHA Canada’s Contribution

The Nayi Roshini (New Light) project, supported by EHA Canada, works out of the Duncan Hospital in Raxaul. The team implements the strategies listed above. Roshini addresses engages local communities and addresses the social factors contributing to illness. Each participating community chooses four men and four women who constitute a “Task Force”. These lay villagers have been trained to work with and for their own people. Now, 41 Task Force Groups are active in their communities and many people have been helped.

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