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The second wave of the pandemic has left ever more numbers of people dealing with stress and anxiety. There is fear and uncertainty, loss and grief. There is isolation, survivor’s guilt, and often an inability to get some closure with rituals in the case of death. There is frustration and anger at the system. Normal ways of processing emotional tension seem to be less effective than usual. There is a lot of alarming data on the emergence of widespread mental health issues in the pandemic. Yet there are some positive signs that there is less stigma about approaching professionals, and seeking help.
People now recognize what we did not in 2020 – this will be a marathon, not a sprint. How can we hope to cope?
In this panel, four distinguished medical experts discuss how we can keep up our energies for developing better resilience. What have they learnt anew in these past 15 months? What is the latest evidence on what works, and what doesn’t when it comes to emotional well-being? When is it imperative to seek professional help? How can we accept people’s emotional states as fully legitimate and real, and still help people transform hopelessness into more positive agency? As usual, the interactive discussion will leave enough time for audience questions.
You can find a compilation of mental health resources here.
Dr. Prabha S Chandra, MD, FRCPsych, FAMS is Professor and previous Head of Psychiatry at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore, India. She is President Elect of the International Association of Women’s Mental Health, has served as a temporary advisor to the World Health Organisation and UNAIDS and is currently a nominated Member of the Mission Steering Group (MSG) of the National Health Mission, Government of India.
She is on the editorial board of Lancet Psychiatry and several other journals. Her recently edited books include Mental Health and Illness of Women (2020) and Suicide by Self-Immolation: Biopsychosocial and Transcultural Aspects (2021).
She is Principal Investigator of the Bangalore Child Health and Development Study (BCHADS) cohort jointly funded by the Medical Research Council, UK and ICMR, focusing on maternal and child mental health. This is one of the few cohorts worldwide that has longitudinal data on mental health of children and mothers from the pre pandemic times and both waves of the COVID 19 pandemic.
During the pandemic, she is involved with setting up dedicated mental health helpline support for women who approach the 181 helplines across the country using the toll free NIMHANS Psychosocial helpline. In collaboration with the Government of Karnataka her team has completed the DIAL and C Study, to understand the challenges faced by One Stop Centres in supporting women facing gender based violence across the State during the COVID 19 pandemic. She is also now leading a project funded by the Ministry of Women and Child Development that aims to train staff in all 700 One Stop Centres across India, to assess and handle mental health issues among women who approach them. Her team is also actively developing resources for the public in handling grief and trauma related to the pandemic and training mental health professionals in grief counselling.
To handle her own stress and anxieties, she has amusing conversations with her dog Juno, drinks endless cups of Orange Pekoe tea, enjoys her walks at the Agara lake and binges on comedy shows
Dr. Ravindra Mehta is an established clinician, researcher, and a teacher in the field of Pulmonology (Respiratory/Chest Medicine), Critical care (Intensive Care) and Sleep Disorders Medicine. Dr. Mehta has an extensive academic training and professional experience, both in India and the USA.
Dr. Ravindra Mehta did hi MBBS from the Seth G S Medical College and KEM Hospital (University of Mumbai), followed by a MD in Internal medicine (General Medicine) from LokmanyaTilak (Sion) hospital in Mumbai.
He completed a second MD in Internal medicine (General Medicine) from the State University of New York at Brooklyn (Downstate Medical Center).In the USA, Dr. Mehta did his fellowship training in multiple fields which includes Pulmonary (Respiratory/Chest) Medicine, Critical Care (Intensive care) medicine, and Sleep Disorders Medicine from Winthrop University Hospital in New York. This was followed by training in Interventional Pulmonology in New York, Boston, and France.
He has also established a State-Of-The-Art Interventional Pulmonary Program, regarded as one of the leading programs in the country, and the first in Karnataka. This has led to groundbreaking work in Interventional Pulmonology, which has been presented in international American and European meetings.
Dr Soumitra Pathare MD MRCPsych PhD is a Consultant Psychiatrist and Director of Centre for Mental Health Law and Policy at the Indian Law Society, Pune, India. His primary interests are in the areas of mental health policy, scaling up mental health services, rights-based care and legislation.
He has provided technical assistance the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India in drafting India’s new Mental Health Care Act 2017, which takes a rights-based approach to mental health care and provides for publicly funded universal mental health care. He was also a member of the Mental Health Policy Group appointed by Government of India to draft India’s first National Mental Health Policy released in October 2014.
He has served as a WHO consultant in many low and middle-income countries (Botswana, Seychelles, Lesotho, Samoa, Vanuatu, Eritrea) assisting them in drafting and implementing mental health legislation and national mental health policy.
He was the Principal Investigator of QualityRights Gujarat project (2014-2016) which implemented the WHO QualityRights program in 6 public mental health facilities in Gujarat.
He is currently involved in scaling up Atmiyata across Mehsana district, Gujarat with a population of 1 million. Atmiyata is a project to improve access to mental health services in rural areas, by training and mentoring women leaders of micro-credit self-help groups to provide basic psychological interventions and access to social benefits for a defined rural population.
He is Project Director of SPIRIT Hub (2017-2022) a collaborative initiative of Centre for Mental Health Law and Policy ILS (Pune), TRIMBOS (Netherlands), SNEHA (Chennai) and BCCP (Bangladesh) with the Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Gujarat funded by NIMH (USA). SPIRIT is scaling up and evaluating 3 universal suicide prevention interventions in a cluster randomised controlled trial. SPIRIT also has capacity building initiatives to improve implementation research capacity in South Asia as well as the capacity of policy makers to use scientific evidence for policy-making.
Paulomi M Sudhir
An alumnus of the Department of Clinical Psychology, NIMHANS, Bengaluru, Prof. Paulomi Sudhir currently holds the post of Professor at the Department of Clinical Psychology, NIMHANS.
Prof. Sudhir is a consultant at the Behavioural Medicine unit at NIMHANS, a specialized clinical unit that provides psychotherapeutic services and training for various psychological conditions, and at the stress and lifestyle clinic at NIMHANS center for well-being.
Her areas of clinical and research interests include Cognitive behavioral therapies, mindfulness based interventions across psychological and medical conditions, psychological process in health and health behaviours. She has mentored several doctoral and MPhil scholars at the department, in addition to research projects that she is associated with.
She has been part of the National helpline of NIMHANS which started in March 2020 and has published research papers in national and international journals in her areas of interest and book chapters.
She has conducted workshops for mental health professionals and in the areas of workplace well-being.
Rohini Nilekani is Founder-Chairperson, Arghyam, a foundation she endowed to fund initiatives for sustainable water and sanitation across India. From 2004 to 2014, she was Founder-Chairperson of Pratham Books, a non-profit children’s publisher. She is Co-founder-Director of EkStep, a non-profit education platform.
A former journalist writing for leading publications, she is also the author of “Stillborn” and “Uncommon Ground”, both published by Penguin Books India. In 2017, she was inducted as Foreign Honorary Member of the AmericanAcademy of Arts and Sciences.
As signatories of the Giving Pledge, Rohini and Nandan Nilekani have committed half their wealth to philanthropy.