14.12.2016 Alternative interventions for improved mental health – reforming policies and practice

Participants from 40 countries came together for an international three-day conference on mental health and support in the community, different approaches and services, broader systems and the role of stakeholders in scaling up and developing or reforming policies.  The conference was convened by the International Network Toward Alternatives and Recovery (INTAR) 2016, in Pune, India.

A few days ago the conference organisers sent an email asking for feedback on our key learnings and our messages for the world.

During the conference I asked my CBM colleagues two questions. What will you take back to CBM? And what will you do differently?

Samina Jahan from CBM’s Bangladesh Country Office said “Currently we are implementing a community-based mental health project through a partner organisation and we are using a twin track approach.  The person is at the centre.  On the one hand they engage with their families, community, organisation of persons with disabilities, and on the other hand people receive medical interventions. The way forward is to look at alternatives to medical interventions such as theatre, art, yoga and may how these may contribute in the next project.” 

Technical Advisor Sammy Schubert realised “there are key opportunities for CBM Australia to promote the rights of people with psychosocial disabilities are both policy and community level.  At the policy level, we need to advocate for the repeal of mental health laws and policies that for violate the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities(UNCRPD) and the development of laws and policies that are UNCRPD compliant. At the community level our programs need to support The development of inclusive communities that embrace diversity where people with psychosocial disabilities can live independently and with dignity.” 

Finally, Madhavan S.A, Senior Programme Office from CBM’s South Asia Regional Office iterated that “the current focus of our mental health work is predominantly on by a medical interventions and links to livelihood and income generation activities. This workshop help me to understand the importance of intentional peer support systems and also to look at other alternative therapies.  The workshop also reinforced CBM’s core belief of supporting community-based mental health.”

So my feedback?

I heard about the concept of ‘scaling out’ or ‘scaling across’ rather than just scaling up – think of the ripple effect of throwing a stone into water and the concentric circles, which challenges the idea of vertical scaling up.  It is something that will shape my ideas of implementing disability rights at a programme level.

I also learned about the role of people at the community in identifying and supporting people with psychosocial disabilities, specifically homeless people.  I now understand how the Chai seller plays a pivotal role in providing information and knowledge about the daily mental health of their customers.  My take away message – think local, think cultural, think context!