Corporation’s ‘Happiness’ project aims to make Kochi a mental health-friendly city

Psychiatrist Dr Philip John inaugurates the Happiness Kochi project. Photo: Special arrangement

Kochi: In a novel and much-needed initiative, the Kochi Corporation has launched a wellness programme focussing on the mental well-being of the people. The programme named “Happiness Kochi -- Caring for the Wellness of All” envisages a comprehensive plan for systematic interventions for mental healthcare in the city.
The programme emphasises on transforming Kochi into a mental health-friendly city in an inclusive manner.

The project will be implemented by bringing together mental health experts, students, people's representatives, schools and Kudumbashree workers. Key features of the project include community-level mental health care activities, educational institutions-based mental health services and a mental health internship programme for professional students. The programme aims to bring in a holistic approach towards the mental well-being of the city residents, right from eradicating the societal taboos associated with mental illnesses.

“Mental well-being is a major factor which contributes to the formation of a healthy culture. Mental illness is just like any other health problem. There is no need to conceal it. All residents of the city should have an awareness of what is psychiatry and mental health. There will be a major change in the people’s attitude if there’s such an awareness,” Mayor M Anilkumar told Onmanorama, explaining the goals of the project.
Anilkumar said the programme will also be exploring yoga’s scope as a traditional method of healing.

The corporation decided to launch the project, in association with the Cochin Shipyard, based on the findings from a tele-counselling programme it had implemented during the peak days of the Covid pandemic. Through this service, the corporation had provided tele-counselling facilities to 6,400 Covid patients. Startlingly, about 48% of the Covid patients, who availed the service, had experienced various mental health problems including depression, mood swings, anxiety and sleep problems. This indicated the need to expand public mental health services in the city.

A major feature of the Happiness Kochi project is the community mental health initiative. As part of this, workshops on mental health and city life for elected representatives and officials including contingent workers and Kudumbashree Area Development Society members will be held. Division-level mental health task forces will also be formed apart from running awareness campaigns on mental health concerns and lifestyle management across the city.

Programmes for target groups such as senior citizens, women and youth at community level are also planned. As per the project, each ward in the local body can also choose different mental health promotion activities, emphasising on social networking scope.
The mental health services based in schools and colleges mainly aim to support students in stress management and academic achievement. Special supportive programmes during exam seasons and sessions for parents and teachers are also among the plans. Wellness clubs will be formed in schools.

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