About me: I am a health psychologist living in Montreal, Canada and provide mental health services (psychotherapy) to N'Djamena, Chad through Skype.
Origins of the project: The idea has been circling in my mind for several years but the project is only a few months old. It has grown quickly and the service is in high demand.
About the project: The concept is simple. Every weekend I sit in front of my computer and talk to people on the other end. I receive supervision by a trans-cultural psychiatrist when I need a consult for a patient. The project requires someone in N'Djamena to also offer services (an office, a computer, internet connection) which so far have gone unpaid. This person is also offering administrative services such as coordinating appointments between patients and me, accepting cancellations, follow-ups etc. I am also in touch with a physician in N'Djamena in case I need a patient to be seen by a doctor if there is a need for medication. Here, there is a physician who is temporarily volunteering as a medical advisor for my work. I go to her with questions about medication which I then pass on to the physician in Chad who finds an equivalent locally available medication to prescribe or recommend to patients if deemed necessary. Although I have not yet performed a formal evaluation of the work, the feedback is very positive. The therapy sessions are helpful and have made a difference.Challenges: The problems I've encountered so far are rather minor. The major one is when their electricity is cut-off in the middle of a session which happens frequently. The other problem is bad connection when voice is lost, delayed, difficult to hear, with frequent interruptions in the session. Other minor problems include lack of privacy for the patients who usually come with their family in tow including children and babies. Also heat waves which I'm told interfere with the WI FI connection. Another problem, likely cultural, is patients' lack of punctuality. None of these problems have been very serious and the work continues. There is something about care provided through distance that patients find special and resonating. It seems to offer something above and beyond the therapy itself and portray considerate care, concern, and empathy. I believe this adds to patients' potential for healing. I feel privileged to be able to provide this assistance, to have my patient's trust despite the cultural differences, and to be able to stand beside another human being along their journey to health.
Funding: This project is currently funded by me (personal funds). My work is pro bono. A few other professionals have shown interest in joining me to provide free psychotherapy services. I would like to find sources of funding to provide some compensation to those volunteering their time and equipment in Chad, and to cover, at least partially, their internet fees, and to provide some supplies.
Invitation: If you are a French speaker and would like to work with me and provide psychotherapy to Chad I would welcome an email. If you are interested in establishing a virtual clinic to offer similar services I would be very happy to hear from you.
Request: If you know of sources of funding that could help with this work I would appreciate hearing from you.
Nothing About Us, Without Us - Voices from the Global South
held on 28th-29th November 2015
The Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS), Mumbai hosted the 4th biannual Global Mental Health Summit (GMHS) between 28th and 29th November in collaboration with The Public Health Foundation of India, The Banyan and The Banyan Academy of Leadership in Mental Health (BALM) as a part of the Movement for Global Mental Health (MGMH). The MGMH was founded in 2008 to take forward the neglected agenda of mental health in the world, and has since been working to raise the profile of mental health through the global platform of an interactive website (www.globalmentalhealth.org) and the work of local activists in different countries.
The biannual summits, held in different parts of the world for the past 4 years have presented an opportunity for multiple stakeholders from the mental health sector to come together, share experiences and learn from one and other.
The focus of this year’s two day Global Health Summit, themed “Nothing About Us, Without Us”, was driven mainly by persons living with mental health issues and disabilities, from different social, cultural and educational ecosystems. The summit was kick started by Prof Asha Banu, TISS who introduced the summit to the audience and put forward the agenda of the summit. Dr Manish Jha, Dean, School of Social Work, TISS extended a hearty welcome to all participants. Prof Vikram Patel, co-director, Centre for Chronic Conditions and Injuries, and adjunct professor at Public Health Foundation of India, India, took the stand next and spoke about the right to care and right to dignity for users of mental health and the need for users, caregivers and mental health professionals to come together and dialogue about the changes needed in the care and services globally. Dr Vikram Gupta, director, BALM addressed the audience and spoke at length about the need to cut across the many barriers faced in the care for mental health users.
Day 1 of the summit saw participation from users, service providers and mental health professionals who shared their experiences not only through dialogue but also using interactive mediums of dance, theatre, poetry and more. The day closed with the screening of the film Astu, which told the story of Mr Shastri, a retired Sanskrit professor who in due course suffers with Alzheimer's and goes missing. The second day of the summit started with a discussion on the film by veteran film and theatre actor Mohan Agashe and continued on to a panel discussion ‘Nothing About Us, Without Us’ moderated by Tasneem Raja and Ketki Ranade where users shared their experiences of living with mental health issues and Mental health policy group member Mr Akhileshwar Sahay spoke about the need to have a single voice regarding mental health in the country in order to exact policy change at the national level. The second day also saw posters being presented by various stakeholders elucidating the many achievements and challenges in the field of mental health.
After a session of academic presentations by mental health researchers and professionals, the day came to a close on a positive note with a short presentation by girls from The Cathedral and John Connon School, Mumbai who shared their experience of launching a school level peer-support group 'Reach Out' for students and adolescents dealing with stress, peer pressure, substance abuse, body image and more. It was followed by screening of the film ‘Come with me’.
The Way Forward:
This summit brought together a large number of users and caregivers who had previously no opportunity to attend or share in a summit of this magnitude. All organizers and participants unanimously agreed that this is only a first step in creating inclusive spaces in the mental health sector, and more such events and networking opportunities need to be organized by different stakeholders. In his valedictory session, Dr S Parasuraman, director, TISS also suggested that many such events should be organized across different regions by multiple stakeholders, in which TISS will be happy to participate. He emphasized the need for documentation of best practices and partnerships between academia and field to expand the human resources for mental health.
The participants were delighted to see new faces talk about mental health which was suggestive of wider participation. All in all the two day summit was a huge success and a truly global initiative that cut across borders and brought various stakeholders together for a common cause and saw involvement from across sectors, with participation from organizations working in sectors such as homelessness, trafficking, disability presented on mental health implications and relevance of mental health for their work.
On behalf of the MGMH: PHFI, The Banyan, The Banyan Academy of Leadership in Mental Health (BALM), & TISS