Awareness, Accessibility, Affordability of Mental Healthcare to Rural India
According to The Lancet, one in seven Indians experience mental disorders, regardless of age, gender and socio-economic backgrounds. In rural areas, where 70% of the population lives, accessing mental healthcare is challenging. This lack of access not only affects their well-being but also places severe economic strain on the families. Additionally, the lack of awareness and high stigma surrounding mental illness isolates those in need of support and treatment for mental disorders.
Objective and Implementation
LiveLoveLaugh launched its rural program – Community Mental Health Program (CMHP) – in 2016 to improve and strengthen the mental healthcare ecosystem in rural geographies with a holistic approach.
This approach is based on three key elements:
Awareness: We spread awareness through activities like street plays, wall paintings, and consistent training for frontline workers in mental healthcare.
Accessibility: We provide persons with mental illness and their caregivers access to psychiatric treatment, psychosocial support, and rehabilitation in their villages.
Affordability: While the treatment provided is free of cost, we also connect beneficiaries to government schemes making mental healthcare affordable.
A crucial aspect of the program involves prioritizing caregivers by providing them with training to enhance their caregiving abilities, addressing their health needs, and helping them become financially independent to support their families.
Currently the program is operational in Davangere, Mysore, Belgavi and Gulbarga districts in rural Karnataka; Koraput & Puri districts, Odisha; Thiruvallur & Theni districts, Tamil Nadu; Kangra district, Himachal Pradesh; Idukki district, Kerala; and Chhindwara district, Madhya Pradesh.
Mode Of Delivery
In-Person and online
Local regional language
Mysore, Davangere, Gulbarga, Bidar and Belgaum (Karnataka) | Thiruvallur and Theni (Tamil Nadu) | Koraput and Puri (Odisha), Chhindwara (Madhya Pradesh), Kangra (Himachal Pradesh) and Idukki (Kerala)
What makes the program sustainable?
LiveLoveLaugh’s rural program aims to support persons with mental illness and their caregivers through an integrated and sustainable model of mental healthcare delivery. Through a carefully structured framework, various stakeholder groups are formed and trained to support communities. Caregiver groups are formed at the village level, federation groups at the block level, and parent champion groups at the taluk and district level.
These support groups, including ASHA workers and community volunteers, are equipped with the knowledge and skills required to become advocates for mental health awareness. ASHA workers are also trained to identify and support persons with mental illness. All the stakeholders are empowered to carry forward the program's reach and effectiveness within the communities.
As the groups get proficient and self-reliant over time, LLL's community mental health program becomes a self-sustaining model that thrives on community ownership and empowerment for mental health support.
The Way Forward
As the rural program evolves into LiveLoveLaugh’s flagship initiative aimed at bringing about an effective change in rural India’s mental healthcare capabilities, the plan is to scale to more geographies by partnering with grassroots organizations. The expansion is rooted in LLL’s commitment to ensuring that mental healthcare is accessible and affordable to all.
Since Launch In 2016
Stories of Hope
Chandanna is 23 years old and hails from a lower middle-class family of 4 members. His struggle with mental illness began 6 years ago. He would often get into fights, have difficulty concentrating on his work, have disturbed sleeping patterns and experience auditory hallucinations. Chandanna’s mental illness took a toll on his family. His treatment would cost up to INR 3000 a month, which was a huge financial burden on them. Unfortunately, the nature of the situation caused his mother to experience depression and suicidal ideation. They were both identified under LLL’s program after which they started receiving free medication and treatment. The family was also given counselling and vocational training to support employment-related needs. Their complete rehabilitation and recovery were ensured free of cost through this program. It has brought about a positive change to his family’s situation. Chandanna’s mother now works as a community volunteer for the program.
I am Jagu Sisa from Koraput. In the past, I have used traditional medicines and also believed in superstition for my treatment, but there was no improvement. Then, I was taken to the district hospital in Jeypore. As per the doctor’s advice, I continue to take my medicines. My mental health condition is now good and I am able to do day to day work. During the pandemic I was unable to collect my medicines, but the SPREAD team delivered my medicines home. I am grateful for all their help.
Jagu Sisa, Koraput - Orissa
Kenchamma developed symptoms of mental illness that included lack of appetite and disturbed sleep. Her family members believed this was due to evil spirits and God’s punishment. They visited temples but saw no improvement.
She was then admitted to a ward in the neighbouring district where the family spent heavily on treatment, medication, travel, etc. However, since they were unable to afford the medicines regularly, her symptoms reappeared.
In 2019, she attended a medical camp in her village and began receiving free treatment, medication. Her parents are able to save money every month. Her condition is now stable, and she has started earning for herself by stitching clothes. She also performs household chores, takes care of her aging parents and even helps her brother in his agricultural activities.