In Karnataka's Rural Pocket, Deepika Padukone Spends Time With Mental Health Patients

Actor Deepika Padukone, who visited Jagalur Taluk in north Karnataka on World Mental Health Day, said the entire intention of coming out was to enable people with mental health issues to seek help

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In Karnataka's Rural Pocket, Deepika Padukone Spends Time With Mental Health Patients

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Deepika Padukone went public with her struggles with depression in 2015

Bengaluru:  While treatment for mental health issues is a huge challenge in towns and cities, in rural areas the situation is even worse. But Jagalur taluk in Davanagere district in north Karnataka is doing some pioneering work with state and private participation. The Infosys Trust and Deepika Padukone's The Live Love Laugh Foundation are helping out -- and yesterday the actress visited villages in the area to see the ground situation for herself.

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day.

Rural Davanagere is a far cry from the glamorous world of films. But she came here to talk about an issue close to her heart - mental health.

A few years ago, Ms Padukone went public with her struggles with depression. She later formed The Live Love Laugh Foundation to promote work in the field of mental health.

She told NDTV in Bikichodu village of Jagalur Taluk, "The entire intention of coming out was to enable other people who might have been experiencing similar symptoms to seek help. Wherever in the world I go, I cannot tell you the number of people who identify with what I said... I honestly set out with the intention of helping even one life."

The Foundation has done work in the cities but there was always a plan to help rural patients as well.

"Work in the rural areas is something we definitely identified right at the start. We have started with Karnataka. We definitely want to take it to other states as well. It is about partnering with the right people. It is not that work was not going on -- but with the Foundation coming in, from two talukas it has gone up to six talukas," Ms Padukone said.

The Foundation is funding the Association of People with Disabilities or APD. APD helps to deliver treatment for mental health issues through the state government's own primary health care centres.

ASHA health care workers have been given special training by the APD -- to help them identify mental health issues. Shobha, an ASHA worker, told NDTV, "We see if someone is talking to themselves or having other such behaviour. We alert the doctor. And if it turns out they need medications, we go to their house to make sure they take it properly."

APD's Deputy Director AL Janardhana said the number of patients being treated for mental health issues in the area had grown four times, thanks to better identification and follow-up.

Doctors from NIMHANS in Bengaluru also come to the Jagalur villages to meet patients there. Dr T Sivakumar, Associate Professor, NIMHANS, said there were just not enough psychiatrists on the ground to meet the needs of patients.

Both Mr Janardhana and Dr Sivakumar said the role played by celebrities like Ms Padukone in talking about the issues they faced was vitally important in encouraging people to seek help.

Jagalur was chosen for the push for better mental health care because of its backward condition.

NDTV met a couple who had been reunited because of mental health treatment. Basamma, the wife of a man who suffered from mental health issues, said, "I left him because he was wandering around like a mad person. I went to live with my mother. He is better now after taking medicines, and I came back five months ago."

Her husband Rudresh said he used to Shimoga and Davangere for medicines. "Now I can get them right here. Things are so much better now," he added.

There is a quiet revolution going on in Jagaluru taluk. Treatment for mental health issues is coming to the doorstep of those who need it. The public-private partnership is showing that it is a model that could be followed elsewhere.
 

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