Social capital, altruism and well being, in low income communities of Pune city
Bhargavi Venkatasubramaniam Davar (Bapu Trust for Research on Mind & Discourse)
Paper short abstract:
CAMH, Pune, provides comprehensive mental health services in urban slums. The paper argues that social capital, altruism and the pursuit of happiness through community participation keeps communities resilient in the face of socio-economic adversity and consequent mental illness.
Paper long abstract:
The CAMH has been working since 2004 providing mental health services in urban slum communities of Pune, in India. For 5 years we provided psychotherapies and medication, built on a traditional client-therapist individualistic model. Other than being culturally dissonant, this model replicated therapist-client power relationship, with net result of low client enrolment and high drop out. As social workers, we also faced dilemmas about our role in the coercive care of those with severe mental disorders. In 2008, we changed the frame of community mental health practice to a more equitable one of community development, participation and self determination, engaging, through participatory methods, in understanding how communities defined and responded to their health / mental health problems. How the communities framed, formed, interacted, exchanged and transacted psychosocial areas of life, has, to a large extent, determined our project design. In the last 4 years, we have found that the precepts of social capital, altruism and the pursuit of happiness through community participation are key elements that may keep those communities protected and resilient in the face of socio-economic adversity and consequent mental illness. In this paper, I argue against the view, of Global Mental Health Movement that poor communities, while may be at higher risk, have organized their lives around a strong notion of 'community', from which they can draw their support and care, in the pursuit of their life purposes including happiness.
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