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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 37  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 394-406

A qualitative study to explore various meanings of mental distress and help-seeking in the Yamuna Valley, North India

1 Herbertpur Christian Hospital, Attenbagh, Herbertpur, Uttarakhand, India
2 Division of Psychiatry, University College London, London, United Kingdom
3 Herbertpur Christian Hospital, Attenbagh, Herbertpur, Uttarakhand, India; University of Canterbury, School of Health Sciences, Christchurch, NewZealand

Correspondence Address:
Meenal Rawat
Herbertpur Christian Hospital, Atten Bagh - 248 142, Uttarakhand
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijsp.ijsp_63_21

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Context: In rural India, mental healthcare remains limited due to scant state services and incongruency between provider- and patient-framing distress. Help-seeking by people with mental health problems is related to how meanings of distress are understood differently by individuals, based on their interaction with various actors in the community and the available cultural explanation within their local ecologies. Methodology: This study examines the mutually constituted relationship between meanings of mental distress and help-seeking among people residing in the Upper Yamuna Valley, Uttarakhand, North India. This qualitative study builds on six in-depth interviews with people with severe mental health issues and one person with epilepsy, referred as people with psychosocial disability (PPSD) in the study. The data analysis was iterative and followed thematic approach. Results: The study found that personal belief based on one's experience, such as negative self-judgment and wider cultural explanations, such as supernatural beliefs, as well as gender roles, impacted the way people address their mental health problems, in turn shaping their help-seeking behavior. Participants lost hope for a cure after years of trying to find an effective solution. Moreover, lack of access to care and remoteness of the mountainous area made help-seeking and recovery feel impossible. Conclusions: This study underscores the need for researchers and policy professionals to explore the local context and culture to improve care and treatment quality. The study also explains that personal explanation of psychosocial problems and help seeking are not unidirectional. It is a complex phenomenon layered with the local contexts which should be addressed in clinical practice, as well as future research. Finally, clinicians' training should address the local cultural language of distress to identify the problem and suggest an effective solution.

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