From Local to Global - Contributions of Indian Psychiatry to International Psychiatry

Article excerpt

Byline: Srinivasa. Murthy

Indian psychiatrists have actively engaged with world psychiatry by contributing to understanding and care of persons with mental disorders based on the religious, cultural and social aspects of Indian life. The contributions are significant in the areas of outlining the scope of mental health,classification of mental disorders, understanding the course of mental disorders, psychotherapy, traditional methods of care, role of family in mental health care and care of the mentally ill in the community settings.

Introduction

During the last one year, I have read four books of importance on the topic under consideration in this article. These books are: The Joy of Mental Health by Prof. N.N.Wig, in which he presents his understanding of mental health in the Indian context as well as interprets some of the Indian concepts like Vanaprastha and its applicability in the modern world, for the wider world audience. [sup][1] The second book by Prof. Kapur covers the larger canvas of the ascetism in the Indian seers and his personal experiences of yoga, and reflects on the wider importance of Indian spirituality and mental health. [sup][2] The third book is by Prof. Ajita Chakraborty. In this book of memoirs and essays Prof. Chakraborty presents the Indian view of transcultural psychiatry and how it differs from what is considered transcultural psychiatry by the western professionals. She makes a strong point by stating that 'an Indian school of psychiatry must develop to suit Indians who are not to be seen just as a variant of westerners'. [sup][3] The fourth book is a compilation of articles covering the pluralistic therapies and concepts of India, and their place in the larger field of mental healthcare. [sup][4] I would like to use these as representative of the way Indian psychiatry has influenced global psychiatry. By the very nature of the subject, as well as the limitations of space, I cannot be comprehensive in the coverage and restricted to illustrate the aspects I consider as significant.

There are two aspects of Indian Psychiatry that are worth recalling. First, India has a tradition of understanding mental disorders as part of Ayurveda, as well as having a number of treatment approaches (pharmacological, psychosocial, and spiritual) for the care of mentally ill persons. This knowledge pool has continuously interacted with the international developments and enriched international psychiatry. Second, in the field of understanding of mental disorders and care of the persons with mental disorders, Indian psychiatrists have contributed to world psychiatry. [sup][5] It is important to keep in mind this dual nature of Indian contributions when addressing this topic. In covering the Indian Psychiatric Research Contributions to International Psychiatry, it is also important to recognize that this has been a two-way process. The seven areas chosen are the following [Table 1]{Table 1}

Scope of mental health

A striking aspect of Indian psychiatry has been the broader approach to mental health, in contrast to the focus of mental disorders in most of the other countries. Indian religions and culture have placed a high value on mental health. There has been an emphasis on the prevention and promotion of mental health, along with the care of the persons with mental disorders.

Dr. Govindaswamy [sup][6] outlined this, in the early 1950s, as follows:

"The field of mental health in India has THREE objectives. The first of these has to do with mentally ill persons; for them the objective is the restoration of health. A second has to do with those people who are mentally healthy, but who may become ill if they are not protected (prevention) from conditions that are conducive to mental illness, which however, are not the same for every individual. The third objective has to do with the promotion of mental health to normal persons, quite apart from any question of disease or infirmity. …