SMART Mental Health

Triumph over Mental Illness: Suresh’s Journey with SMART Mental Health Initiative

Suresh’s life was filled with pain, suffering, and despair. His world had come crashing down when he lost his first wife to a tragic accident, leaving him alone to deal with his demons into a sea of alcohol and rage. His family became the target of his uncontrollable anger, and he refused any help from anyone, even those who cared for him.

When ASHA workers tried to help him, Suresh walls were impenetrable. He shut himself off from the world, refusing to meet with them, even as they pleaded with him to seek medical attention.

It was only when Indu, a Field Investigator from The George Institute India and Geeta, a Alawalpur PHC Asha worker joined their efforts that he finally relented. But even then, he refused to seek medical help, despite being at a high risk of severe health complications.

“We repeatedly visited his house to convince him to take the screening test just once, and after repeated attempts, we succeeded!” narrates, who is one of the hundreds of ASHA workers who have undergone training to assess depression, anxiety, suicide risk, and screen community members for common mental disorders in rural India under The George Institute India’s flagship initiative - the SMART Mental Health Programme.

Their training helped them pierce Suresh's mental barriers and propelled him to come out of his shell. Dr. Pranjali, (Medical Officer in-charge of PHC) compassion and counseling too were like a ray of hope in darkness. He finally found the strength to seek the help he so desperately needed. With her prescription and advice, he not only received medical treatment but also found a new purpose in life - buffalo milk business.


SMART Mental Health Initiative

SMART Mental Health was started to help adults with Common Mental Disorders (CMDs) like depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. The program aims to improve the way these disorders are managed and treated so that more people can get better. They do this by running big campaigns in the community to reduce the stigma around mental health and using a special mobile device tool (SMART Health) to help doctors make better treatment decisions. The program is helping to improve mental health in a community where many people need help.

Designed to use in rural areas with low resources, SMART Mental Health has now successfully trained a total of 460 ASHAs to assess for depression, anxiety, and suicide risk, and screened 170,000 community members residing in rural Haryana and Andhra Pradesh for such CMDs.

Today, Suresh is a different person. Filled with joy and hope, he no longer lashes out at his loved ones and instead treats them with the kindness they deserve - thanks to the love and care of the people who never gave up on him.

However, there are millions who need help in dealing with mental illnesses. Despite 150 million people living with mental disorders, mental health care faces significant challenges. Only 25 out of 100 people receive it, hindered by a lack of professionals, quality care, social stigma, and limited access, especially in rural areas.

“What we have on mental health is some government trainings in some distant centers - which we sometimes attend, sometimes cannot.”, informed Dr.Pranjali.

Despite the scarce time, Dr. Pranjali insisted on saying, "More such initiatives like SMART Mental Health should grow. Its usability is so easy that any health worker can diagnose mental health patients, needless of having a specialisation"

“All’s well if it ends well!”, exclaims Suresh - once a patient of severe anxiety and depression, now an ambassador of the SMART Mental Health initiative, encouraging others to shun stigma and believe in mental health.