When sometimes we see only darkness.
Nearly 450 million people are affected by mental illness worldwide. In wealthy nations, just half receive appropriate care, but in developing countries, close to 90 percent go untreated because psychiatrists are in such short supply. Vikram Patel outlines a highly promising approach — training members of communities to give mental health interventions, empowering ordinary people to care for others.
Mental health care advocate
Vikram Patel helps bring better mental health care to low-resource communities — by teaching ordinary people to deliver basic psychiatric services.
Why you should listen
In towns and villages that have few clinics, doctors and nurses, one particular need often gets overlooked: mental health. When there is no psychiatrist, how do people get care when they need it? Vikram Patel studies how to treat conditions like depression and schizophrenia in low-resource communities, and he’s come up with a powerful model: training the community to help.
Based in Goa for much of the year, Patel is part of a policy group that’s developing India’s first national mental health policy; he’s the co-founder of Sangath, a local NGO dedicated to mental health and family wellbeing. In London, he co-directs the Centre for Global Mental Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. And he led the efforts to set up the Movement for Global Mental Health, a network that supports mental health care as a basic human right.
From Sangath’s mission statement: “At the heart of our vision lies the ‘treatment gap’ for mental disorders; the gap between the number of people with a mental disorder and the number who receive care for their mental disorders.”
What others say
“This comprehensive work empowers healthcare workers in under-resourced and developing communities to build much-needed mental health care into all aspects of existing services.”— Amazon.com review of “Where There Is No Psychiatrist”
0:11 I want you to imagine this for a moment. Two men, Rahul and Rajiv, living in the same neighborhood,from the same educational background, similar occupation, and they both turn up at their local accident emergency complaining of acute chest pain. Rahul is offered a cardiac procedure, but Rajiv is sent home.
0:33 What might explain the difference in the experience of these two nearly identical men? Rajiv suffers from a mental illness. The difference in the quality of medical care received by people with mental illness is one of the reasons why they live shorter lives than people without mental illness. Even in the best-resourced countries in the world, this life expectancy gap is as much as 20 years. In the developing countries of the world, this gap is even larger.
1:04 But of course, mental illnesses can kill in more direct ways as well. The most obvious example is suicide. It might surprise some of you here, as it did me, when I discovered that suicide is at the top of the list of the leading causes of death in young people in all countries in the world, including the poorest countries of the world.
Vikram Patel says: I’m pretty sure that each and every one of us present here today can think of at least one person, at least one person, who’s affected by mental illness in our most intimate social networks.
It is true for me and I believe this is true for others as well.
Please listen to this TED Talk and hear Vikram Patel share his experience and ideas for empowerment and improvement.