Home EVENTS Christian Groups Play Crucial Role In Addressing India’s Mental Health Challenges

Christian Groups Play Crucial Role In Addressing India’s Mental Health Challenges

Christian Groups Play Crucial Role In Addressing India’s Mental Health Challenges


DEHLI — Nitin Kumar, a 22-year-old student who lives in Delhi, lost both his parents during the second wave of the pandemic. This incident severely impacted his mental health. He ultimately decided he wanted to end his own life.

However, in such a crucial moment, the mental healthcare services provided by the Young Men’s Cristian Association came to his rescue.

“I was unaware of how to take care of myself,” he told Religion Unplugged. “As a friend of mine advised me, I decided to approach psychologists but some of them were very expensive. When I came to know of the YMCA, I was provided counseling at a minimal cost. Every week I also follow up with my counselor, which is a great support for me presently.”

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He added that at one moment he was even unaware of what he was going through. It was only after counseling that he realized it was a case of severe depression and that he should be approaching psychologists immediately.

In fact, India’s Christian community has emerged as a proactive force in the battle against mental health challenges. Through initiatives such as national helplines, counselor training programs and pastoral support, they are working towards building a more mentally resilient society. The commitment to inclusivity in counseling services further underscores the universal nature of mental health issues, emphasizing that support and understanding should transcend religious boundaries. As these initiatives continue to grow and evolve, the Christian community’s contribution to mental health awareness and care in India remains invaluable.

The discussion of mental health in India is still relatively recent, and as of today, prevalent myths and taboos persist regarding the subject. According to the National Health Program led by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, 6% of Kerala’s population is affected by mental disorders, and one in five people experience emotional and behavioral issues.

Approximately 60 to 70 million people in the country grapple with common and severe mental disorders. India also holds the unfortunate distinction of being the world’s leader in suicides. According to WHO statistics, the average suicide rate in India is 800,000 people each year.

Chingngaihlian Tunglu, a mental health counselor associated with YMCA and currently based in Mumbai highlights that be it people of any faith, the stigma associated with mental health is the same across all of them.

“While COVID-19 has forced people to focus more on mental health, there is still a huge difference in terms of mental health counselors available in India,” she said. “In such a scenario, certificate courses provided by YMCA and other Christian organisations play a crucial role in bridging that gap.”

She added that the courses for certification not only include theoretical classes, but also practical experience where they have to co-counsel for 100 hours without which they are not allowed to practice as professionals.

Apart from this, Tunglu also told Religion Unplugged that there is a supervisor that she has to report to every month. There she has to inform about all the cases that she received and the process that she followed. However, she added that despite such a long process she cannot receive a license to practice as a mental healthcare professional in India as it has various other requirements.

People like Tunglu are often considered lay counselors as they don’t have any license. However, she feels that there should be a regulating body to grant people like her licenses to practice as recognized mental healthcare professionals. Although people like her cannot prescribe medicine, she still feels that as a lay counselor she can provide the first aid that the people suffering from mental health issues require.

Launch of a national helpline

Apart from YMCA, which provides several lay counselors, another organization called Urban India Ministries (UIM) has been serving families across our nation for the last 25 years, providing counseling to strengthen and restore broken marriages and family life.

In response to the growing need for mental health and emotional well-being, in the face of depression, addictions, stress and broken relationships, UIM — in collaboration with Christian Counselors Association of India — organized a National Christian Counselors Conclave in late October in Bangalore.

Brighton Anbu, a healthcare expert, said the conference received a good response and that some 100 Christian counselors from across India participated. They shared that together sharing, discussing and learning about matters on marriage and family counseling was very useful.

The meeting also provided the counselors an opportunity to share some of the difficulties and challenges they face in providing counseling on various needs in marriage and family life.

Anbu said the national helpline number (888-44-70705) — which is provided by the Home Shanti Foundation — is now available five different languages, thereby extending its reach among the masses.

“We receive close to three-five calls everyday of people from all faiths asking for help related to their mental health issues. Our counselors connect them to the correct individual keeping in mind their needs and demands,” he said.

Specialized courses to bridge the gap

While Christian organizations are involved in providing mental healthcare services, they have also launched various courses that can help train more mental healthcare professionals.

Olive Nagarajan, who heads the the UIM’s counseling department, told Religion Unplugged that currently two courses are being offered by them in their specific wing for training counselors called Family Training Institute. She added this is in collaboration with Martin Luther University, based in Shillong.

“One program is called Masters in Family Life Education, where the students are equipped to understand the problems that might exist within a family. The other program trains people in how to engage in preventive as well as curative measures and how to provide therapy so that people in need of urgent care feel healed,” she said.

Apart from these programs, there are other courses and certificates that students can take to deal with growing mental health issues in India. Nagarajan said many churches have also come up with strategies to invite counselors and psychiatrists to develop awareness programs.

“Churches are intentionally organizing group sessions in which people can engage and learn about preventive measures,” she added. “Even pastors are being trained to conduct pre-marital counseling. They are trained in order to have a better understanding of what are some of the yellow flags and red flags, which give them signs of some problems related to mental health in people and based on their understanding they can refer them to a professional counselor or a psychiatrist.”


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