20 Minutes Live with Dr. Vikram Patel

Ninad Karpe from 100X.VC introduced the well known mental health speaker and believer – Dr. Vikram Patel. Dr. Vikram is the co-founder and former director of Centre for global mental health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He is also a well-known professor at the Medical School of Harvard in Boston. Vikram is focused on mental health and emphasises on community practices to overcome the same. He was also a part of India’s first mental health policy draft. He was part of the Time’s Magazine 100 most influential people in 2015.

Ninad Karpe also explained the concept where Dr. Vikram will speak for 10 minutes, and the questions will be considered for the next 10 minutes.

Dr. Vikram Patel on mental health

Dr. Vikram Patel said that mental health has never been discussed widely. But the death of celebrity actor Sushant Singh Rajput and his manager has pushed this topic to the spotlight.

He stressed on the fact that mental health is much beyond mental illness. Dr. Vikram said that mental health is one of the most important assets of a human being. He said that a human being is much beyond the skin and breathing pattern. A human being is a combination of –

  • What we think
  • How we behave
  • Our emotions

The above three elements define mental health. And it determines our mental health even when we are sleeping. He said that most of us ignore things around us and completely disregard our mental health until it takes a toll.

Dr. Vikram said that other than genes, our early life experiences, mostly at school and home, play a major role in our mental health. And our current environment, like the people around us, our workplace, defines our health. And this is why mental health is unique to everyone.

Mental health during the pandemic 

 Now, mental health during this pandemic is quite important. It started with fear. Fear about the safety and health of oneself and the family. Fear of difference when working from home. Fear of our different behavioral and daily routine patterns. Anxiety, fear, lack of sleep has been witnessed during this pandemic. But as per Dr. Patel, all these emotions are quite normal. Uncertain times like this give direction to such emotions, and that’s quite rational.

He highlighted the known economist Angus Deaton, who documented the 2008 recession and said that the reduction in life expectancy of working Americans is because of substance abuse and suicides. The present economic recession is much deeper than that. And India is severely affected this time. And even before COVID, less than 10% of people accessed mental health safety measures. And thus, mental health will take an extremely bad shape post COVID. He also said that people who are in the business sector are also impacted by mental health. And this is the reason why mental health is one of the most widely debated subjects internationally.

There have been several attempts at taking care of mental health. And one of the most successful attempts in our country is through telemedicine. But this also has a wide limitation in our country, mostly because of the digital divide that we have in India. But even then, these initiatives are still a huge sigh of relief.

But for our huge and widely diversified country, some NGOs are doing quite a good job. For example, a leading NGO has come up with a six-session course that focuses on depression, mental health, and likewise. These sessions have also been demonstrated in a number of countries including – America. And thus, this emphasizes the fact that mental health is much beyond practitioners and can also reach to every common man. Dr. Vikram believes that mental health is one of the most important investments since independence.

Q & A

1. How open is mental health in India? Are support groups playing an important role in helping mental health people?

Dr. Vikram replied positively that the situation is improving day by day. And support groups are coming up with innovative ways like personal experience sharing and group discussions for the same.

2. Has the pandemic led to mental health issues in women?

Dr. Vikram said that yes, mental health is not evenly distributed among both the genders. And the reproductive and sexual health of women is also overlooked during this period. And since children are also at home, thus, their duty and workload have increased, and this might lead to mental health cases.

3. Are health applications effective in the case of mental health?

Yes, they are effective as per Dr. Vikram Patel. But it is important to have a look at the reviews and feedback. Also, if any payment is to be made for any application, then people should not hesitate. It is important to choose an app that focuses on counseling as well as personal experience sharing.

4. More details on the six-point program?

The treatment is open-source. It is a healthy activity, and it is available on the website. Currently, this is restricted only to healthcare workers. This treatment is restricted to people who are clinically depressed, and it involves working with state and different health ministries. But within 6-8 months, the curriculum might be available to the general public as well.

5. What is the tip for young citizens who are engaged in a startup activity?

Dr. Patel said that the first step is to acknowledge that these are difficult times, and thus, it is alright to feel stressed. Also, if you feel physically uneasy, then visit a doctor. Exercising and sticking to a routine is quite important. Finding “quiet time” and connecting with your loved ones is quite important. Also, disconnecting with the digital world is important.

6. Is digital detox necessary?

Yes, Dr. Patel supported digital detox. He said that personally, he does the same. And he manages his time quite judiciously, and thus, takes a break from online duties.

7. What should be the first point of contact in case you feel uneasy?

Dr. Patel said that anyone who you love and are close to should be your first point of contact. Like Dr, Patel contacts his wife or his sister. He also contacts his fellow mental health practitioners because they are in the same profession.

8. What about climate change and mental health?

Climate and mental health are related. Climate change causes uncertainties on a wider scale, and they, in turn, affect mental health. How can a young crowd perform productively during this period? Staying connected with local community groups engaged in climate change can prove to be really helpful for their mental health.

9. How do medications help in the case of mental health?

Dr. Patel said that yes, medicines are available for mental health. But firstly, counseling should be taken. It has no side effects and is much more powerful. But medicines can also be taken under the guidance of a supervised psychiatrist.

10. How can people contribute to this cause?

Dr. Patel said that the biggest myth about mental health is that only celebs are trapped in this. Poor and marginalized citizens are untouched by this. But this is completely wrong. Even people who are living in villages are affected by mental health. Thus, he requested people to engage with NGOs and charitable organizations who are investing their time in such a practice. Children with disabilities are completely ignored, so spending time with them is quite important. Also, children who are currently out of school might be in bad shape, and thus, they should also be interacted with regularly.

Ninad asked Dr. Patel what is a personal lifestyle change that he adapted to during these pandemic times. To which he replied that he loves spending time walking with his dog.

Ninad also asked about any book which he has currently read. To which he said that he loves reading fiction books. But he recently read non-fiction Early Indians. He also loved reading Capital, and it’s a slow read, but still a must-read in the subject of economics.

Finally, his closing remarks were that mental health should be accepted. People should acknowledge the same and be aware of the same. And in case of any issues, they must contact the required person. He also stressed on the fact that mental health should never be left unattended.

- 100X.VC Team

Published on: September 6, 2020