MeHelp Project

Our Focus

Our specific focus is in the state of Kerala in India which is witnessing an alarming rise in mental health disorders within a fast-changing socio-economic societal context with a higher prevalence of mental ill-health and alcohol abuse than the rest of India. Our focus will be on developing culturally appropriate, acceptable and accessible mental health literacy, and we will develop this through engagement with users and stakeholders. This will be achieved through our exploration of lived experiences of Mental Neurological and Substance Use (MNS) disorders and their effect on families and communities; their narratives on understanding these through social, economic and cultural factors; and how intersecting inequalities affect the ability to access treatment, help and support. MHL is defined as knowledge and beliefs about mental disorders which aid their recognition, management or prevention

Based in Kerala, and aiming to spread public awareness on mental health literacy with the help of theatre, Project MeHeLP INDIA will explore stories of people accessing mental health support and their families to promote public understanding about living with mental illness. Our project partners include: De Montfort University; Loughborough University; University College London; Tata Institute of Social Sciences; the National Institute of Mental Health & Neuroscience; King’s College London; Middlesex University; Excavate Theatre; Lokadharmi Theatre. The project is funded by the UK Global Challenges Research Fund and the Economic & Social Research Council.

Our emphasis is on formulating knowledge in new, creative and accessible ways, through use of applied theatre and media engagement as an intervention to enable knowledge to be used in genuinely empowering and emancipatory ways by citizens of Kerala (India), researchers and health service agencies

Role of MHAT in Project MeHeLP

The Mental Health Action trust is a partner organization and focusses on the districts of Calicut and Malappuram

Our research questions will be addressed through the following objectives:

  1. Conduct a rapid participatory literature and practice review for developing community engagement for MHL
  2. Collaborate with theatre practitioners in the UK and India to advance and develop new and hybrid models of participatory theatre practice that develop the ‘voice’ and agency of urban and rural communities to examine MHL for positive coping and wellbeing
  3. Develop narrative data sets on lived experiences of MNS disorders
  4. Co-production of pilot pieces of community theatre practice reflecting the lived experiences of urban and rural communities to test their applicability in promoting MHL
  5. Engagement and participation of the general public and stakeholders using social media, linking with film, television and other media
  6. Co-produce policy and practice guidance for policy makers and professionals for promoting MHL, mental health and well-being.

Our approach is based on a transformative emancipatory paradigm. Our collaboration will facilitate the development of lasting research partnerships combining knowledge of public mental health challenges with awareness of evidence-based interventions and their cultural transferability providing more insight into the socio-economic and cultural contexts of MNS disorders and people’s understanding of them.

Our Journey

After 6 months of extensive data collection we collaborated with the artistes at Lokadharmi to translate research into scripts which were then performed at 8 sites Attapadi,Elapully,Ernakulam,Chotanikkara,Calicut,Payyoli,Vailathur and Malappuram