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Elucidating media’s role in mental health

Special Correspondent

— PHOTO: M. VEDHAN

Sensitising: One of the founders of The Banyan Vandana Gopi Kumar (left), greets film maker Vasanth (right). (From left) Psychiatrist Anbu Durai, TANSACS project director Supriya Sahu and film maker Rajiv Menon are also in the picture.

CHENNAI: Media should create a demand for mental health programmes and this would in turn propel the government to ensure better facilities said K.V. Kishore Kumar, senior psychiatrist, National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS).

Dr. Kishore, who was participating in the 15th anniversary of The Banyan, a non-government organisation rehabilitating destitute persons with mental health issues, said that the family can recognise an abnormality in behaviour but there are not enough facilities to ensure that the affected person gets care. “We need to facilitate change by providing access to care. Studies have revealed that it takes Rs.1,300 to provide community care to a person with mental illness but hospitalisation would mean a cost of Rs.38,000.”

Early treatment would reduce disability, Dr. Kishore told a panel that included film makers Rajiv Menon and Vasanth, gynaecologist Poongothai Aladi Aruna and Tamil Nadu State Aids Control Society project director Supriya Sahu.

Dr. Kishore said that concerted effort had helped eliminate leprosy from the list of public health problems. Similar efforts would mean social inclusiveness of people with mental illness, he pointed out.

Film makers Rajiv Menon and Vasanth felt that research into medical issues would help prevent stereotyping of persons suffering from disabilities. The Censor Board’s role in preventing caricature of persons with mental health problems would also ensure better portrayal of such issues, Mr. Menon said.

Ms. Sahu said that the success in spreading awareness about HIV that brought the best of talents into treating the disease could be replicated. She suggested that mental health issues be included in school and college curriculum. Schoolchildren could be taken on field visits and college students could take up projects that would provide them a better insight into the issues relating to mental health, she added.

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