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Improving Mental Health in Rural India » Women's Courage

Improving Mental Health in Rural India

March 7th, 2013 by cjtaub Leave a reply »

Today I will be blogging on a community-based mental health intervention for underprivileged women in rural India that appeared in the International journal of Family Medicine. India has over 200 million households living in poverty, one third of the entire world’s poverty. Emotional distress and psychological conditions such as depression are strongly associated with poverty. Women are affected twice as much as men due to factors such as social class, marital and childbearing roles, lack of education, and social oppression. Women also typically do not seek or receive help due to stigma, poverty, lack of awareness, and lack of access to care. His is especially a problem is rural areas. The impaired mental health of these women impacts their quality of life, as well as their economic productivity. Counseling, coping techniques, and breathing exercises have been found to be useful in the management of depression and were employed in this intervention.

This intervention had two components: group counseling and stress management. The group counseling involved ventilation and reassurance and the stress management involved strengthening of coping skills and a relaxation technique. Each session would begin with a group song written by the local women with lyrics emphasizing that life was a cycle of joy and sorrow and sharing and problem-solving in the group could help one face it better. The women would then share or “vent.” The rest of the group would then provide reassurance and coping suggestions for the woman sharing. The session would ending with a relaxing breathing exercise.

Women in the mental health intervention group reported reduction in psychological distress and bodily aches and pains. The majority of the women said that the quality of their sleep improved, which allowed them to carryout their daily tasks without pain and fatigue. Interpersonal problems such as not having a male child and problems with in-laws, were a great source of stress for the women and they said that being able to share their problems with other women in the intervention helped them feel “unburdened” and “lighter.” The women did not have to ruminate over problems in their heads because they could share them with the group. The social support they felt from the other members of the group made gave them a sense of camaraderie in facing the challenges of their lives. The group was a mix of ages, which allowed the young women to learn from the wisdom of the older women and the younger women, who were able to more quickly learn new things could assist the older women.

Here is an example of how one woman’s sharing and the group’s feedback helped improve the woman’s life tremendously. In a group session, the woman told her story about her husband’s chronic illness and his inability to work. She had to care for her husband, in-laws and children and was not making enough money off of their land to do so. A member of the group suggested that she could start a small business to supplement the agricultural income. The woman responded that she could not because her spouse and mother-in-law were against the idea of women engaging in economic activity outside of the house. The group members solved this problem by giving her the idea her to start a small business of selling food products that she could make in the house. They then helped her market her new company. The business ended up being a complete success and even expanded to where they could hire employees.

This intervention not only increased mental health but increased economic opportunity and security for the women in the community, which will feed back positively on mental health from increased feelings of purpose and independence.


Rao, K. Community-Based Mental Health Intervention for Underprivileged Women in Rural India: An Experiential ReportInternational Journal of Family MedicineVolume 2011 (2011), Article ID 621426, 7 pagesdoi:10.1155/2011/621426



1 comment

  1. Meghan says:

    Thanks for writing about this intervention! It’s great to hear about interventions that span multiple issues facing women. Improving mental health via stress reduction is huge, and community group therapy like this seems like an easy, sustainable, and successful way to improve the social support and mental health of women in these communities. I love that beyond improving stress levels and sleeping habits, this intervention was even able to improve the economic situation of some of the women involved. What a perfect example of how both improved mental health can increase the economic state of a community and also women themselves are a valuable asset to the economy.

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