The Minds Foundation recently arranged and ran a Community Mental Health Worker (CMHW) Training Program in the village of Jaspur, India. The health workers’ group which attended this training session were both interactive and showed immense interest in the training content. Day 1 of training was productive and very successful outlining the key aspects of community mental health work. Day 2 included a role play exercise to help train the Health Workers in patient interactions, and make it easier for them to identify patients with Mental Illness; this was also very successful. During the exercise, there was one ASHA Worker who shared her story with the group about attempting to commit suicide; but also how her struggle made her stronger with the support of her family.
This ASHA worker was married at the age of 15 and faced many problems in her marriage. She was divorced from her husband and chose to get married a second time, but again she was unhappy and depressed. Her second husband was only interested in the property she had and blackmailed her for it. Due to this, she thought of committing suicide to get rid of all these problems. This lady was also subject to the discrimination of a caste system and a male dominated community, which upholds certain social norms for women. After seeing all the problems she faced, her parents supported her in working as a health worker and gave her the freedom to work happily and do something she cared about. The ASHA Worker was happy with her parents and family as they didn’t pressure her to get married again, and respected her wishes to work for her communities health and well being. She stated that had her parents not been supportive of her in her situation, she believes she would have eventually been led to committed suicide. By sharing her story of courage, she inspired everyone in the group present that day. Her story also brought to light the psychological pressures placed on some women from within their village, which can lead to mental illness and ultimately suicide of women. Her story is a good example of how a familial support system is important to help a person come out of a stressful and deteriorating situation — which could potentially have lead to suicide or chronic mental illness.