PETT Fellow Shama Parkhe updates us on the life and times of the Hank Nunn Institute in India, where - along with everything else - they are sparking a new Service User Movement. Follow the Hank Nunn Institute on FACEBOOK, or on their recently updated website:


Shama writes that the "past couple of months have been rough due to lack of funding", and HNI "are living one day at a time", but  -

shama 04 canvas"On the brighter side, we are happy to have a committed staff team who continue to work despite the absence of the pleasures of a full pay cheque at the end of the month! We are swamped with referrals, most of them through word of mouth.

"We now have a presence in three cities - Bangalore, Delhi, and Jaipur.

"Delhi is doing very well and gaining visibility with their community awareness programme 'Chai-logue' (dialogue with tea).[See picture below!]

"Jaipur is in its first month of conception.

"Bangalore is almost 4 years old! Our personality disorder service is growing with an average of 75 patients per month.

"It's time for us to start the second season of our community awareness programme - "Nobody Reads the Fine Print". We are also excited about starting a Service User Movement and inviting service users to get involved in the planning of our service and the programmes we offer. We are in our initial stage having conversations with a group of three service users. Follow this through posts on our Facebook page!

"I hope to be able to visit the UK again this year, in November. It would be good to see everyone again. I will keep you posted!

"Warmly, Shama."

The image above: "Open Canvas from a Mental Health Awareness Day"


The Adventure in Pictures:


1. "Us after a heavy meal one afternon:
           fun times that keep us going when the roller coaster hits a low"

shama 01 after meal


2. "One of the 'Nobody Reads the Fine Print' events - a community awareness programme in Bangalore."

shama 02 fine print


A summary of our discussion that day:

It wasn't easy for us to sit with the questions that came up yesterday. There was conflict and responses to queries, curiosity and statements were riddled with tension. It was interesting to see, however, that most of the arguments took place among the attendees and very few questions were posed to the service users and therapist in the room. It reflected the world as it is outside where the "experts" are so caught up in debating the right modality, the essential factors in treatment that few really ask about and listen to the service users' experience. The debates about empathy as a tool for therapists, psychotherapy as a science, expertise and training among mental health professionals and the need for psychiatry, though inconclusive, seemed necessary because once the dust cleared people asked questions that weren't theoretical or abstract; questions that were simple, practical and came from fears and anxieties we all hold.

How can the "non-experts" (friends, family, the community) help the service users (patients)?

How can confidentiality be assured in therapy?

How did the service users present feel when they got their diagnosis?

What were the reasons, for the service users present, to go in for therapy? >




 3. "Sowing seeds of Group Analysis in India - First successful introductory weekend!"shama 03 sowing seeds


4. "One of the 'Chai-logue' events - community awareness programme in Delhi"

 shama 06 chai alogue


A few thoughts from members of our Delhi team (they wrote this for another online article):

Arushi Bradu | Psychologist at Hank Nunn Institute

'Socratic Dialogue in Delhi'

As I set out on my path to becoming a psychologically well-adjusted individual, I referred to the definition of mental well-being provided by WHO and meticulously tried to check everything off.

“…a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

I was stumped by the last bit of the definition which threw me in a state of contemplation. I wondered what ‘contribution’ entailed and what this ‘community’ business was. Was I supposed to engage in shelling out a part of my income on charity or did it refer to some probono work?

At this stage, I realised that that the idea of mental health was so subjective that one might even question the possibility of defining it. Do psychological difficulties refer only to conditions that are diagnosable? What does it mean to be mentally ill or fit?

Answering these questions for myself seems insubstantial and answering it for others, biased and vague. This is where I find it significant to encourage discourse and dialogue around issues related to mental health. A community of members belonging to all walks of life; whether it is mental health professionals, people who have no knowledge of what psychological well-being means, individuals who are dealing with mental illnesses and those who aren’t.

Chai-logue is one such community. It is an awareness program run by Hank Nunn Institute where individuals gather on two Saturday evenings every month and embark on a journey to explore their own and others’ ideas about the decided issue.

The aim is to create a non-judgemental space where there is no authority to explain the binaries of right and wrong. An environment warmed by a cup of tea which never fails to facilitate conversations.

It was in one of these Chai-logues that the idea of privilege sprang. The privilege of belonging to a generation that questions, that is aware and constantly willing to change. It is this privilege of ‘knowing’ that I wish people acknowledge. As someone pointed out at a Chai-logue, “With great power (privilege) comes great responsibility.” The responsibility to engage in dialogue when there is a need, to question, unlearn and relearn. Perhaps, we may even consider it our contribution to the community.


Pavani Khera | Psychologist at Hank Nunn Institute

'Am I mad if I see a therapist?'
Stigma can be defined as an attribute that devalues and dehumanises an individual, reducing him or her “from a whole and usual person to a tainted, discounted one”. Seeking help for mental health issues is a difficult decision in our society because of the prevalent stigma attached to these issues. Most of us are advised to find distractions and find the cure in speaking to friends and family. It is only when the problem gets aggravated to an extent that family and friends can’t bear to have to you around, the person might be pushed towards seeking some kind of help. I have had many patients brought in by their family members who want an immediate solution to cure them of their problem. When they realize that there isn’t any immediate solution for mental health issues and instead it requires work by coming for therapy regularly, they don’t seem to be very happy with that idea. “In our times, there was no such thing. We managed on our own. We don’t know what is wrong with this generation”. 

As a mental health professional, one needs to frequently encounter such attitude and learn different ways to make people aware of mental health issues and the importance of treatment according to their cultural context. The label of “paagal” is very popular in our culture, and we usually use it in the context of humor. But it is precisely the fear of this label (even in a joking way) that deters people from seeing a mental health professional on a consistent basis. It is okay for you to suffer and seek help for a physical ailment but for a mental health ailment, one first needs to convince others around them that they really need help. It is extremely important to create awareness issues by openly engaging in discussions to normalize the concept of mental health issues and counter the prevalent stigma


5. "Community Tree with pics and little notes about each of the team members (except two who have recently joined)"

shama 05 tree