CREATING A TEAM OF MENTAL HEALTH VOLUNTEERS IN THE COMMUNITY:
PILOT PROJECT OF THE PSYCHIATRY DEPARTMENT OF MLDMHI
Dr. Sunita Nikumbh, M.D. (Hom)
Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry,
Dr. M. L. Dhawale Memorial Homoeopathic Institute (MLDMHI),, Palghar
The current year’s theme of World Mental Health day is ‘Mental Health of Youth in the Changing World’. The Department of Psychiatry, MLDMHI had met the NSS Volunteers of Dandekar College, Palghar a year prior with the aim of raising a team of Volunteers to attend to the primary needs of Mental Health in the community. The college had shown a willingness to participate in such a programme. We therefore decided to act on this proposal with a dual purpose: one, to raise awareness of the importance of Mental Health and Hygiene in the College going students, and two, to initiate a pilot project to train the student volunteers in primary prevention of mental health.
A preliminary survey indicated that the college has more than 10,000 students on the campus in various streams includes UG, PG, and Ph.D. The college principal, Dr Kiran Save, was agreeable to the idea but expressed the wish that the teachers of the college be sensitized first to the issue. That was indeed a wholly unexpectedly but welcoming idea. The college decided to take it up as their NAAC activity and designated as their Faculty Development Programme.
Faculty development session on Mental Health in college students
The session was conducted on 2nd January 2019 with attendance of almost 180 teachers from all the courses. The session began in a very innovative way where we attempted to project the intricacies of how we receive information, process it and how our altered perception is often responsible for the derangement of our Mental Health.
This was followed with adequate stimulation with some caselets depicting different problems of adolescents ranging from simple to complex. The group was asked to share their understanding of the issues depicted. Many actively participated and contributed very good insights and appreciation of the issues. Their sensitivities were touched and they shared their identification very beautifully. After sufficient sensitisation and discussion on all the cases, the basic material on Mental Health Programme was shared with them, this was a summarization of the issues discussed.
Drs Sonal Jagtap and Vivek Vasoya, PG Students from the Psychiatry Department presented the caselets, they were guided and supported by the Dept. faculty Dr. Sunita Nikumbh. Training Programme for Mental Health Volunteers
This experience helped to crystallize the nature of the Pilot project to follow. We were to ask for volunteers from the degree classes who would have at least two years in the college to implement the learning. Three workshops of 2 hours each to be held on 5th, 12th and 19th March 2019, would present the concepts in a lively way with role play and other innovative ways of involving the volunteers. A Certificate of participation would be issued to those who had attended all the three sessions. The following objectives of the workshop were framed:
Workshops: Objectives and Conduct
- Understanding Mental Health in general and application in the adolescents age group
- Learning to identify how and why Mental Health is preserved (primary prevention) and how it can get disturbed
- Learning common issues /disturbances in the mental health & hygiene of adolescents
- Understanding the need and role of Mental Health volunteers for early detection of MentalHealth issues
- Creating a ‘cell’ to help adolescent for better quality life and future
- Learning to work as a TEAM and to help adolescents in distress
A total of 77 students from varied backgrounds enrolled themselves with an interest and motive of ‘helping each other’ to deal with issues related to Mental health. Role of teachers and mentors was designed where they would be helping the needy. All the sessions were planned to be interactive and PG Psychiatry students of MLDMHI were actively involved in each module as a part of their training.
First module – The first 3 objectives were taken for the first module
Methodology: We created small skits based on various common issues related to Mental Health that can affect anyone. The discussion mounted on each of these succeeded in stimulating individual sensitivities. The participants contributed their observations on the skit, which led to a very meaningful discussion. The stirring of emotions helped to facilitate learning on various issues on mental health and what contributes to the balance of Mental Health.
Paper cases converted into enactment was the USP of the session and all Psychiatry MD Part I students had taken a very good initiative for the preparation of this skit and acted very well.
Both the guides, Dr Sonal Jagtap and Dr Vivek Vasoya, Part II residents, were given space and opportunity and were helped to speed up the delivery.
The session ended with an assignment, training for a survey so that participants can experience the likely difficulties when interacting with the community. They were given home work to survey 1 person from the area where they live and learn how to overcome the difficulties.
- To deliver awareness of the current scenario pertaining to mental health in our vicinity, state & country.
- To revisit the concept of primary prevention in the field of Mental Health and how it can get disturbed
- To demonstrate common issues /disturbances in the mental health and hygiene of adolescents
- To understanding the need and role of Mental Health volunteers for early detection of MentalHealth issues
A group discussion was mounted on their experience of conducting the survey and the difficulties they faced. The session ended in a live enactment done by two members based on their experience. The young group interacted very well and learned through active participation. The message of mental hygiene and need of self-training to receive the needy individual was well received. Students came forward to become volunteers; some asked for personal help to overcome their personal difficulties so that they can help others. One teacher agreed to participate in the program and help in supervising students.
The task was given to redo the survey after the day’s learning and especially of the younger age group. MD students, especially Drs Sonal & Vivek did a great job of presenting & delivering the objectives.
Third module –
Objective: To become aware of mental health disturbances and the importance of building and working in TEAM.
Methodology: It was decided to demonstrate all the disturbances in monologue mode and to conclude on the nature of disturbances. Participants were distributed in 6 small groups and all MD part I students joined each group as facilitators. At the end, all groups were asked to share their understanding of mental health disturbances.
The session concluded by highlighting their roles and responsibilities as a volunteer in the mental health program. Avoiding stigmatization of mentally disturbed individuals, but the TEAM building exercise could not get completed because of lack of time.
The Psychiatry Part I students- Drs Muhammad Ubharay, Priyanka Kewalramani, Ankita Telwane, Natasha Naidu, and Shraddha Gadre – were the participants in the monologue. They also helped the group during the small group discussions. Throughout the programme, our Medical Officer, Dr Samiksha Murkute, was active behind the scenes guiding the students at all stages and lending solid support.
- Understanding the need of Mental Health volunteers in the community
- Importance of training them in a simple yet creative way
- Need of liaising with community
- Time and Efforts of the entire TEAM are important.
A concluding session was planned to obtain feedback regarding our efforts and know how the volunteers planned to help others with the training imparted to them. The Principal, Dr Kiran Save, along with the senior faculty and Trustee, Mr Ashok Thakur and NSS coordinator Mr. Vivek Kudu, who unconditionally supported the activity, attended the function.
The groups in which they worked were guided regarding the points to be shared related to their learning. One representative was asked to present this in front of the Principal, Trustee, and Dr. Manoj Patel (Head of the Dept. of Psychiatry, MLDMHI). The sharing indicated that they had indeed grasped the essential concepts and were moved with the urge to help the needy.
In a motivational address, the Principal explained the importance of this programme by sharing Albert Ellis’s philosophy, ‘Nothing is good or bad, your qualities make you good or bad’ where irrational thoughts or self-talk disables the person quickly and hence there is a need of preserving Mental Health and Hygiene for quality life.
Mr. Ashok Thakur focused on the very meagre stresses a common man encounters in his everyday life and how those may put the individual in ‘dis-ease’. Hence, for improving the quality of Mental Health, such programs are needed more often in areas like Palghar, as the stresses in common life have started hitting the rural parts equally. He appreciated the efforts taken by the Department of Psychiatry, MLDMHI and Rural Homoeopathic Hospital (RHH) by extending the care to citizens of Palghar, from Physical to Mental health.
Dr Manoj Patel shared that this may be the first of its kind activity in India where such a joint initiative has been taken for the wellbeing of the community and indicated that further progress of the program will begin in the next academic year.
The Path ahead
Since the campus has a large number of students, reaching this vast number is only possible with the help of volunteers. Looking at the number of volunteers and the level of their motivation even when their exams were approaching, the organisers have decided to take up further responsibility and plan accordingly.
A team of volunteers from college with 1 or 2 residents from MLDMHI will work in a TEAM from the next academic year and will orient the classes. We have requested the college to set aside some time for the orientation in the new timetable, so it will become a regular activity without compromising on academic teaching. The volunteers will identify the ‘needy’, will identify problems, encourage him/her to seek guidance from the faculty on campus or take expert opinion as demands. Seminars can be organised at frequent intervals where some more insight can be built up. Reaching out to the huge mass would become a reality.
- The community needs self-motivated volunteers for preserving Mental Health in society
- Training of community mental health volunteers is the quickest and easiest way to reach the community
- Availability of community mental health volunteers will give a sense of proximity and faith when in need
- Communication by community mental health volunteers in the local language will develop a sense of closeness and of being understood to enable open sharing of distress.
- Presence of community mental health volunteers will liaising with medical institution or primary health care system
- ‘Reaching the unreached’ will be only possible with the help of the TEAM; medical professionals, community mental health volunteers, paramedics, and different stakeholders of the society