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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

UF receives $1.1 million to improve mental health care in India

UF has received a $1.1 million grant to research and help improve behavioral health care in three Indian cities.

The National Institutes of Health's Fogarty International Center awarded the money to UF.

Although India has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, it is severely lacking in mental health professionals, said Linda B. Cottler, leader of the project.

Other mental health issues that will be addressed are violence, addiction, psychosis and dementia, she said in a UF news release.

"We need more mental health professionals trained in India," she said.

Cottler, a UF professor and chairwoman of the epidemiology department in the colleges of Public Health and Health Professions and Medicine, said the project will focus on three cities: Bengaluru, Gangtok and Tezpur.

The project will concentrate on increasing the number of mental health professionals through workshops in India and fellowships for Indian professionals in the U.S., Cottler said.

These fellowships have health professionals from India come to the U.S. for an extended period of time.

Cottler said the idea is for the Indian trainees who study in the U.S. to take their knowledge back to India and teach others.

Sonam Ongmu Lasopa, a trainee from India, said she is gaining a lot of experience in her time in the U.S.

She said she worked in Sikkim for five years as a psychologist before coming to study in the United States in January.

Lasopa can attest to the fact that there are very few mental health professionals in these regions, she said.

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"There's a lot of stigma attached to being mentally ill," she said.

People from India tend to seek religious help before professional help, she said, and some people attribute their behavior to possession by demons.

"That's the more acceptable form of treatment for people who behave abnormally," she said. "By the time the person comes to the mental health facility, the prognosis is already bad."

Many people from India are not aware that they have a mental illness, Lasopa said.

She hopes that by promoting awareness through her research while at UF, she can spread her knowledge and help those suffering from mental illnesses.

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