Published January 23, 2018
A delegation of five SSW faculty members participated in the International Conference on Nurturing Global Mental Health in March at Amrita University in Coimbatore, India, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. UB and Amrita have had a partnership since 2006.
The conference focused on the results of a National Mental Health Survey which found that mental and substance use disorders are a significant source of morbidity in India, with over 10 percent of residents meeting criteria for some type of mental disorder, and an estimated 150 million Indians with one or more mental or neurological disorder. It is estimated that only one in ten persons in India with a mental disorder is receiving evidence-based treatments.
"We embraced the idea of coming together around a topic that's important certainly in both countries," said Assistant Dean for Global Partnerships and Director of Field Education Laura Lewis who led the SSW delegation. "Our School of Social Work has a trauma-informed, human rights perspective, so we thought that would be a contribution that we could make."
Lewis presented on Stigma and Mental Health, with assistant professors Annahita Ball on Mental Health and Children, Annette Semanchin Jones on Disability and Mental Health and also Foster Care and Mental Health, Elizabeth Bowen on Substance Abuse and Mental Health, and Mickey Sperlich on LGBT and Mental Health.
According to Amrita Department of Social Work Chairperson MK Suja, who is applying for funding to complete a fellowship next year at the SSW, “Most people don’t take treatment for mental illness due to the fear of stigma, isolation or rejection."
Lewis felt that the SSW delegation played a significant role in helping to disseminate information by highlighting best-practice approaches that can help to remedy the issues associated with mental health. "One of the things about mental health is that there is differential access. Where there is poverty in the U.S. and in India, people are less likely to have good care," she stated. "I think the conference helped bring to light issues that we have in common around providing treatment for mental health and also potential approaches that could be applied in either setting. The problem of mental health is one that is more easily combated when we work collaboratively and understand across cultures and borders what's working and what's not."