Dr. N.S. Vahia Foundation
In an effort to increase mental health awareness, while reducing the stigma too often associated with mental health conditions, McLean Hospital and the Dr. N.S. Vahia (NSV) Foundation, a mental health NGO based in Mumbai, are collaborating to develop innovative and engaging campaigns to enhance mental health education throughout India.
Education and advocacy are key elements of McLean Hospital’s mission, and the hospital has a deep-seated commitment to improving knowledge and understanding of psychiatric disorders and their treatments globally. Bringing the expertise of McLean internationally through a thoughtful multi-pronged approach that includes public and professional education, the hospital is working through the Deconstructing Stigma campaign toward enhancing the overall knowledge of brain health and encouraging compassion and understanding for individuals living with psychiatric disorders.
For more than a decade, the NSV Foundation has hosted one of India’s most sought-after mental health conferences aimed at providing up-to-date information about the latest standards and protocols in the delivery of mental health care. McLean and the NSV Foundation formally teamed up to develop “Innovations in Mental Health Care,” a two-day professional conference in February 2019 featuring speakers from McLean, along with mental health experts from India.
McLean Hospital, the NSV Foundation, and the Nehru Science Center in Mumbai also teamed up to produce a groundbreaking science exhibit “Exploring Brain and Mental Health” in February 2019. The exhibit, which showcased pieces of the Deconstructing Stigma campaign, featured larger-than-life photos of real stories of Indians who shared their experiences with mental illness. The exhibit also incorporated hands-on opportunities for school-age children to learn about the brain through age-appropriate activities, including building neurons, viewing human brain cells under microscopes, and holding a human brain. In addition to the physical exhibits, the public was invited to join mental health-related talks, including “A Parent’s Guide to Technology and Mental Health,” “Educating the Educators about Brain Health,” and “Bullying: The Lasting Impact.”
Facts About Indian Mental Health
- According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 20 percent of Indians—that is 26 million people—will experience depression in their lifetime, yet less than 15 percent of Indians seek treatment
- 80 percent of those with mental illness or substance use issues do not seek treatment
- 1 student dies by suicide every hour in India
- Suicide is the leading cause of death among youth
- 94 million Indians have depression and/or anxiety
- Stigma against those with mental illness is rampant in India, with 47 percent of those surveyed indicating they were “highly judgmental” of people perceived to have mental illness
- 26 percent of people surveyed said they were afraid of people with mental illness
The Dr. N.S. Vahia Foundation is an NGO named after the late Dr. N.S. Vahia (1916-2007). The Foundation endeavors to enhance neuropsychiatry in India. The importance of focusing on mental illness and mental health is underscored by the WHO data that reveals that disability induced by mental illness surpasses disability due to any other physical illness, including cardiac illness or cancer. The Dr. N.S. Vahia Foundation has been conducting teaching programs for clinicians and students of psychiatry in Maharashtra since the year 2008.
Nehru Science Center is one of four national science centers in India and as a part of its activities, the center organizes regular extensive science education programs. It is visited by more than 700,000 people annually. Close to 1.2 million school children alone have participated in the activities of the center. The NSC incorporates innovative ways to communicate science to enhance public understanding of science and spread scientific literacy.