SRINAGAR: Mental health is crucial to one's general wellbeing. Mr Javaid Ahmad Dar, Minister of State for Health and Medical Education, J&K Government opened the mental health camp today at the Municipal Park, Jawahar Nagar, Srinagar. This mental health camp has been organized by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, also known as Doctors Without Borders) in collaboration with the Directorate of Health, J&K government as part of the week long celebrations of the World Mental Health Day (5-10 October 2009) in Kupwara and Srinagar. Dr Mohammad Amin Wani, Director of Health Services, J&K Government, and Dr. GA Wani, Nodal Officer, National Mental Health Programme, were also present at the camp.
From the 8th – 10th October, Municipal Park, Jawahar Nagar is the setting of a mental health camp, an art and poetry exhibition, live theatre based on MSF's successful radio programme 'Alaw Baya Alaw' and screening of MSF videos in Kashmiri and English.
Pupils from schools in Kupwara and Srinagar as well as students from the University of Kashmir entered an art and poetry contest on the theme of 'dealing with challenges on one's life'. Their work is being showcased throughout Mental Health Week, with an award ceremony taking place in Srinagar on 10th of October.
Mental health is an integral component of basic healthcare services MSF has been providing to people in Kashmir since 2002. There is a growing body of evidence showing the benefits of an integrated healthcare approach combining both mental and physical care. Integrating mental health services into basic healthcare is also one of the most pragmatic ways to make mental health services accessible to those who need it most. The multi-faceted mental health-related stigma and discrimination impedes access to existing mental health services for people in need.
“What we have been witnessing with our presence in Kashmir for the past seven years is that mental health needs to be an integral component of the overall health system and therefore access should be guaranteed to such a service. That is why we offer such integrated health-related services in Kupwara, northern Kashmir, where mental healthcare is part of the basic healthcare programmes” says MSF's project coordinator Sasha Matthews.
“More and more people are realizing the need of mental health in order to go through a difficult and stressful period of their lives. We often suggest coping mechanisms to our clients in our counseling sessions such as spending time with their family and friends in order to overcome such situations. The stigma that is attached to the word “mental health” - where someone is considered crazy - is still present but slowly reducing. We welcomed the introduction of the National Mental Health Programme (NMHP) last year in Kashmir, where we saw it as a first step towards the breaking of such stigma. Unfortunately, the NMHP does not include a counseling component like ours, but we hope that in the near future counseling will be introduced so that this stigma will be completely eroded and the people will benefit of a total mental well being. This is why there is no health without mental health” added Matthews.
Bobby Ramakant, CNS
(The author is a World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General's WNTD Awardee (2008) and writes extensively on health and development. He is a Fellow of CitizenNews Service (CNS) Writers' Bureau. Email: [email protected])