It's Okay To Not Be Okay

Sanjivini Society of Mental Health, India

Shreya Mehta on July 6, 2018 in Health & Sanitation

Mental health is ignored in India. Statistics of various surveys are a reflection of the same neglect. According to a survey conducted by NIMHANS (Bengaluru) in 2016, roughly 1 in every 20 Indians suffers from depression. WHO also has estimated that approx. 170,000 deaths due to suicide occur in India every year.

India has one of the highest suicide rates and a large proportion of these are of adults of the age 15-29 years, with a majority of them being women. There remains a massive unaddressed vacuity within the population about awareness on mental health and well-being.

The stigma attached to having a mental illness in India and the dire shortage in the number of psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, social workers in India can be attributed as one of the main reasons of such drastic numbers.

Sanjivini Society of Mental Health is a non-government organisation located in the national capital. Since 1976, it is catering to the mental health needs of people in mental distress by providing free and confidential counselling services. It was awarded with the Sanskriti Award in 1982 by the Delhi government for its valuable services.

Even though it began as a small group, it has grown to become a very sizable institution today. Its primary goal is to develop a society in India that helps Indians recognise the importance of maintaining good mental health and well-being.

Sanjivini volunteers hail from a variety of educational and professional backgrounds and are an invaluable part of the institution. They handle various activities of the NGO like counselling, evaluation, raising fund, training and conducting programs under the guidance of the staff.

One very important service which is fundamental in the functioning of the NGO is the Crisis Intervention Unit. People who are in distress, confusion or feeling hopeless, lonely and helpless due to some problem in their life can contact the institution by writing to them or telephoning them or physically visiting at the centre.

Once the problem is identified or made aware to the volunteer, immediate consultation and counselling with the counsellor is scheduled. A very encouraging and pleasant environment is maintained during counselling so that the individual is relaxed.

Once the individual feels comfortable, it is only then that he/she is able to vent his/her pent-up emotions and thoughts openly. By doing so, the individual immediately feels tranquil and is able to look at his problem more objectively.

In the process of counselling once the individual has found an appropriate solution to the problem, with the help of a little ‘felicitation’ his inherent vitality is rekindled and augmented. This process of self-help has been found to be able to greatly improve the confidence on self and increase self-awareness. Thus, the person is made capable of coping with the situation and his/her motivation is revived.

Various training processes are also conducted in the institution to train counsellors and volunteers before they start working for the Crisis Intervention Unit. In order to build better acceptance in the society about mental well-being and wellness, various community outreach programs are also conducted.

The goal is to dispel the stigma and negative attitude towards emotional and mental problems. Lectures, campaigns, plays, presentations, slide shows are also conducted at various schools, colleges, hospitals, offices and corporate houses.

There is also a Rehabilitation Centre at the NGO that provides services for those who are detected with any mental illness that effects their normal functioning of day-to-day activities. By employing various services, attempts are made to integrate the patient back into the society so that the person can lead a life with dignity and normalcy.

Both group and individual therapy is provided at Sanjivini. In individual therapies, stress is laid to build a relationship between the individual and the therapist. Each session is held in a specific and structured time slot with the help of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and at least one session is held per week.

If an individual is admitted for rehabilitation, regular sessions of individual therapy are held and the family of the individual is encouraged to meet and bond with the individual. In most cases individual therapy is followed by group therapy. It is in group therapy that the clients realize that neither are they alone nor is their problem peculiar.

Thus, a strong sense of belongingness is developed in the process within the group members. Role playing and Behaviour Therapy techniques like ‘Shaping’ and ‘Modeling’ are employed extensively to wipe out any troublesome behaviour and replace it with more appropriate ones.

Family therapy is also an important part of the programs there. Most of the time the families of the mentally ill person tend to also need support as they themselves suffer from fear, despair, isolation, shame and anger. Along with counselling, the families are trained to handle the mentally ill person by providing information about various effective communication techniques, monitoring techniques, appropriate medication and care.

Various indoor and outdoor activities are introduced to the individuals in rehabilitation and therapy as they help reduce levels of stress levels and make the person open up and bond with others. Various vocational skills like cooking, yoga, painting, clay modelling, photography and candle making are also introduced to the individual on a day-to-day basis.

An annual trip is also planned once a year to facilitate the individual’s normal functioning, grooming and management skills. They share common spaces with other individuals and are made to interact with one another in the process.

With the growing popularity of its services, in 2003 the NGO began to organise Basic Counselling Skills Workshop every year to help the participants get a better insight into themselves and their inter-communication skills. Various activities on counselling, perception, active listening, alcoholism, relationships and mental health are also introduced in the program.

Till now thousands of people suffering from mental illnesses have been rehabilitated successfully into the society the institution in itself is an epitome of mental wellness and tranquillity and works to spread the message of mental well-being, dispelling all doubts and stigma about having a mental disease. Talks on Depression and other prevalent mental illnesses are organised to cope with the current issues prevailing the society.

To read more about the inspirational work they are doing, visit Sanjivini Society of Mental Health today!

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