Photo Campaign Aims to Raise Mental Health Awareness in India


The Harvard US-India Initiative (HUII), an undergraduate organization that seeks to foster on-campus dialogue about Indian cultural and economic issues, has spearheaded a new photo-campaign that tackles the issue of mental health in India.

The campaign asked contributors to pose with placards speaking out against the stigma often built around mental illness. Contributors then posted these pictures on social media using the hashtag #IndiaStopTheStigma.

The campaign locates the issue of mental health within the specific context of India. Stigma around mental illness is particularly pronounced in India, with less than 1 psychiatrist for every 300,000 people in the country. India’s first policy dealing with mental health was announced as recently as October 2014 and included a focus on providing universal mental health services. Yet societal stigma persists and cases often go unheard.

“Given the prevalence of the problem and the burden it places on individuals and their communities, it is unfortunate that the stigma suffocates people and delegitimizes their suffering, convincing them that they are in some sense inadequate or alone,” Parijat Lal, Co-President of the Harvard US-India Initiative (HUII) said.

“While we recognize the complex nature of the issue, we were inspired by Dr. Vikram Patel, one of India’s foremost advocates for increased awareness of the issue, and wanted to keep the messaging simple,” Lal added.

Over 90 Harvard undergraduates participated in the on-campus campaign, with more contributions trickling in from places as far as Australia and India.

Disclaimer: The author is the Conference Chair of the Harvard US-India Initiative conference that HUII organizes annually in India, and helped organize the photo-campaign.