Vikram Patel helps bring better mental health care to low-resource communities -- by teaching ordinary people to deliver basic psychiatric services.
In towns and villages that have few clinics, doctors and nurses, one particular need often gets overlooked: mental health. When there is no psychiatrist, how do people get care when they need it? Vikram Patel studies how to treat conditions like depression and schizophrenia in low-resource communities, and he's come up with a powerful model: training the community to help.
Based in Goa for much of the year, Patel is part of a policy group that's developing India's first national mental health policy; he's the co-founder of Sangath, a local NGO dedicated to mental health and family wellbeing. In London, he co-directs the Centre for Global Mental Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. And he led the efforts to set up the Movement for Global Mental Health, a network that supports mental health care as a basic human right.
From Sangath's mission statement: "At the heart of our vision lies the ‘treatment gap’ for mental disorders; the gap between the number of people with a mental disorder and the number who receive care for their mental disorders."
“If you should speak to anyone affected by a mental illness, the chances are that you will hear stories of hidden suffering, shame, and discrimination in nearly every sector of their lives.”
“We need to deliver [mental] health care using whoever is available and affordable in our local communities.”