NGO bid to boost mental health

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The voluntary organisation Maithri is spearheading a unique initiative in mental health care to prevent suicides in Kizhakkambalam village, east of Ernakulam.

The slogan ‘prevention is better than cure’ is important in mental health care and is conveyed through this initiative which enters a significant phase on the occasion of World Suicide Prevention Day on Monday.

The ‘Maithri-CVJ-Aswas’ initiative supported by the C. V. Jacob Foundation and the Kizhakkambalam panchayat has surveyed 7,500-odd families in 19 wards in the panchayat through the participatory rural appraisal (PRA) process. The survey was conducted by 60 selected groups of villagers called Aswas Sangh, which includes Kudumbasree workers and retired personnel from various organisations who were given training by the Maithri Institute for Research and Outreach.

The problems that cropped up frequently and needed intervention were related to children, the widowed/divorced, alcohol related problems, and families that need special care and protection because one member had a chronic illness or there was a mentally handicapped child. A total of 2,721 families have been found vulnerable on these counts.

After the mapping and training, the Sangh personnel are now in the process of family visits. The school mental health programme is envisaged for later this month. MSW students of IGNOU will be roped in for the purpose. They will network with mental health professionals.

“The initiative lays emphasis on active listening of the problems of the affected. It is non-judgmental and focuses on giving emotional support and not giving advice. We could identify that old age people form 50 per cent of the affected lot,” says Stella Stephen.

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