Why We’re Having the Wrong Conversation

Everybody we spoke with said that the conversation must not just be that ‘DBA communities have mental health problems.’ That is what happened in Rohith Vemula’s and Payal Tadvi’s case. The focus was taken away from the system of oppression, from those who should be held accountable in the media.

They also emphasise on the need for therapists from the Dalit community. It would not just help them, but also empower them with representation.

Malhari said, “Therapy for Dalits needs to be tailor-made. There are experiences they might have in common, and they will still be different or expressed differently.”

Furthermore, psychologist Kapoor said, “One of the key aspects of therapeutic work, regardless of their background, is the ability of the therapist to forge a therapeutic alliance with that person. The therapist/psychologist needs to understand the lived experience of that person, and even Dalits, Bahujan do not have homogenous identities or experiences. They are communities with their own history and experiences and socio-political dynamics.”

Dalits & Mental Health: Why We’re Having the Wrong Conversation  

(Illustration: Aroop Mishra/The Quint)

So, What Can Be Done on the Ground Level?

Now, where does the change begin? With upper-caste institutions and communities actively understanding the fault lines and problems they have perpetuated? Yes. But, there’s more.

Dalits & Mental Health: Why We’re Having the Wrong Conversation  

(Illustration: Aroop Mishra/The Quint)

Lack of investment and expenditure also poses a huge problem. Kapoor pointed out, “We are still spending less than 0.5 percent of the health budget on mental healthcare. The National Mental Health Programme’s budget came down to 40 crores in 2019. To provide all the facilities under the Mental Healthcare Act, there is an estimated expenditure of 90,000 crores. We are light years away, a different galaxy in terms of investment.”

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