Vandana Gopikumar

Co-founder, The Banyan and The Banyan Academy of Leadership in Mental Health (BALM) and Professor, School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), India

Mental health is everybody’s business. The interaction between structural barriers such as class, caste/ race / ethnicity, gender based discrimination and consequent lost opportunity and well-being has now been established. While brain chemistry and bio markers are important in addressing mental health concerns, it is no longer the medical model of mental illness that is exclusively embraced. The future of positive mental health may indeed be social context dependent. Therefore, concerned as we are about our today and certainly the tomorrow of future generations and in the ideal of an inclusive society, it is  important that we share ill effects of exclusion, alienation and deprivation on individuals and communities with policy makers and Society and its people, in accessible ways. Mental ill health, distress and social suffering could result in impacting many domains including participation in socio-cultural life, work and the pursuit of higher capabilities and thus impede maximising collective human and social potential. Since all of us have a role to play in both perpetuating barriers and promoting active empathy, kindness, hope and social cohesion, democratization of knowledge and acceptance and use of different kinds of knowledge is essential.

Active exchange and learning between the global South and North, and sharing of wisdom and personal insights  by experiential experts from diverse backgrounds will broaden the focus and dynamic of public engagements and discourse, and highlight the ill effects of fragmented societies, communities and indeed health care. For experiences to be global, in the truest sense, they have to be representative, culturally and politically, as well as socially and economically, and thus include all segments and groups and their realities. This will not just result in  substantive public health, individual and family level gains, but also society level gains, as we purse social justice and equitable living as global and humanitarian goals.