Student intern, Department of Mental Health Education, NIMHANS, Bangalore.
Address of Correspondence: Manjiri Gokhale, Jyoti Nivas College Autonomous, Bengaluru, India
How to cite this article?
Gokhale M. Experience of Interning in the field of Mental Health Education. Journal of Mental Health Education. 2021;3(1):37-43
Most of the mental health disorders (due to their invisibility to the human eye) have an underlying stigma and discrimination. This is largely due to lack of awareness and sensitivity. Owing to our cultural boundaries and prejudicial perspectives, we often blindside our mental health. Therefore, it is a need of the house to promote mental health and raise awareness among the public. Mental Health Education and promotion, thus becomes a critical factor in a country’s development. This helps debunk myths, counter the stigma and promote a healthy environment for the welfare of the people. It further helps reduce the socio economic burden. In a developing country like India, education plays a key role in converting an individual from a liability to an asset. The purpose of an internship is to prepare students with realistic expectations of their future careers and to provide them with opportunities to polish career skills and to gain on-the- job experience. Therefore, internship opportunities not only serve as a tool to educate and promote community welfare but also aids to shape an individual to create a better future.
Keywords: MentalHealth, MentalHealthEducation, Internship, Internship Experience
According to a research study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), it was found that an estimated 450 million people globally suffer from mental disorders. Approximately 80% of the people with mental disorders live in low-middle income countries (LMICs), where four out of five people with serious mental health problems living in LMICs do not receive the needed mental health care services. Mental illness accounts for 14% of all disability adjusted life years (DALYs) lost worldwide, and is one of the major contributors to the global burden of disease.  Mental health is the foundation for well-being and effective functioning of an individual and for a community. It is more than the absence of mental illness, it is a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and isable to make a contribution to his or her community. Despite these known facts, most of the mental health disorders (due to their invisibility to the human eye) like anxiety, depression, suicide have an underlying stigma and discrimination which hinder the process of treatment seeking among patients. This is largely due to lack of awareness and sensitivity. Owing to our cultural boundaries and prejudicial perspectives, we often blindside our mental health paying less or no attention and care to it. Therefore, it is a need of the hour to promote mental health and raise awareness among the public.
The Department of Mental Health Education, NIMHANS- is an integral part of the Institute and actively involved in teaching, research and training activities in the field of health education. Its focus is to prepare students, health care professionals, caregivers, and the community at large to promote health in individual and group settings, and among diverse populations using culturally appropriate health education methodologies. Its goal is to facilitate voluntary health-related behavioral and social change through the application of principles of behavioral and social sciences. 
Internships involve students working with and for an organization/institute in a fashion that will make them more acquainted with the real time field work and have a context to apply the knowledge gained from their classwork to real life situations. Internship in the field of mental health education is crucial because an individual’s holistic wellbeing is what sets them apart as assets rather than a liability.
Experience as an Intern
The field of psychology and related studies is vast, but its growth is slow in a country like India where the societal constructs have a powerful influence over the ever widening treatment gap. If not dealt with at a grass root level, this field will have no strong base to develop on. Knowing this, I wished to work in the field of Mental Health Education. The National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), is one of the only institutes in India that has a dedicated department for this cause. The Department of Mental Health Education is an exclusive department that aims at promoting and educating individuals and communities to raise awareness, tackle stigma and help bridge the treatment gap that will add in the exponential growth of this much needed field. When I first applied to the Department of Mental Health Education, my expectations were to gain an insight to a mental health setting and also learn more about this field both theoretically and practically. During my internship course, the department offered the interns with a perfect blend of theoretical and practical knowledge, where the interns had an opportunity to expand their network, interact with academicians and also provided a hands-on experience of curating IEC (Information, Communication and Education) material.
Observing the trend of media and mental health, the Department of Mental Health Education aimed at adopting the process of developing IEC materials to help reach out to a wider spectrum of the public to raise awareness about mental health, neurological and neurosurgical disorders. IEC materials are a combination of brochures, booklets, videos, posters etc. that consist of health information about various mental and neurological disorders and mental wellbeing portrayed in an innovative, simplistic and understandable manner that can be accessed by patients, caregivers and the general public who avail the services at the Outpatient Department, NIMHANS. To create IEC material, one must understand that beyond just gathering the “right” information, it requires creativity to make it appealing to the readers, the material must be well drafted and edited. These factors play a crucial role in dissemination of information. During the internship, I had an opportunity to enhance content creation and public relations skills. It provided me with an opportunity to visit specialized clinics and departments to know more about the severe mental health disorder I wished to curate the content on.
In any field, research work serves as a key to establish facts and reach new conclusions, it is the reason we investigate limitations and propose new ideas for a progressive growth. The department of Mental Health Education, has its own journal that provides a platform for professionals and students working in the broad fields of mental, neurological and neurosurgical health and promotion to submit their quality work/research/findings in the journal. .
I had an exclusive opportunity to work closely with the faculty members and the editorial team and work on the journal. This helped me stay connected with the latest findings, initiatives and progress of this field. It helped me know and understand the current status of the field so that as a future psychologist I can contribute more to this field. But beyond just content creation and learning opportunities, the internship program helped me improve my interpersonal relationship skills, it enhanced my communications skills and boosted my confidence while I learnt to work in a time bound goal-oriented manner.
Mental Health and physical health both play an integral role in a person’s existence. Despite this, mental health is still portrayed by some as a luxury.  Noting the above misconception, Mental Health Education and promotion becomes a critical factor in a country’s development. This helps debunk myths, counter the stigma and promote a healthy environment for the welfare of the people. On the background of oversupply of graduates, more and more professional-degree postgraduates need to prove their working ability through internships beyond their degree.  An internship courses with the Department of Mental Health Education, NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences) has provided me with an exclusive opportunity to bridge the gap between literacy and education.It helps apply theoretical knowledge to real world problems and gain the real taste of the field. Working under the Department of Mental Health Education gave interns a chance to expand their network, interact with academicians and learn from them. It also helped them get access to many IEC (Information Education and Communication) materials that served as a key in this learning process.
The internship period at NIMHANS- under the department of Mental Health Education helped us flourish in two major aspects:
1. Personal Aspect: Working closely with the department made me realize my potential and inclination towards psychology and mental health education. Understanding the magnitude of difference between healthy and unhealthy lifestyles, the internship program aided and helped me learn how to make “better choices’. Highlighting the role of caregivers, it helped me know the rising need of caregivers and the need to recognize and value mental health. Engaging in departmental activities boosted my confidence as I got an opportunity to showcase my skills and enhance my event management skills. It helped me know and value “teamwork” more and personally it shaped usto be a better fit in the real working world. All in all, it holistically enhanced the personal growth and development.
2. Professional Aspect: Working with the Department of Mental Health education provided me with an enriching opportunity to expand our practical knowledge. It further encouraged us to improve on our interpersonal communication skills and tap into our creative side- helping us understand the relation between media, creativity and mental health.
More importantly, working on the development of IEC Material on severe mental health disorder gave us an in-depth insight to the subject that helped us improve academically and the intensive training helped in converting this theoretical knowledge to application-based methods that helped promote mental health. The Department of Mental health education provided me with an opportunity to work closely with the department’s journal: “Journal of Mental Health Education” to help understand the research and review process. Along with this, it aided me to understand the importance of deadlines and gave me an insight about how it feels to be working in a mental health setting in real life.
There is no health without mental health. The focus of the Department of Mental Health Education is to prepare students, health care professionals, caregivers and the community at large to promote health in individual and group settings, and among diverse populations using culturally appropriate mental health education methodologies. Internships are very useful in acquiring (practical) knowledge, especially in bridging the theoretical and practical knowledge. Through internship, they can authentically feel the process of combining two kinds of knowledge, and get to know the defects and scarcity in their own theory study. Beyond just theoretical knowledge, working closely with the Department of Mental Health Education – NIMHANS, aided in personal and professional growth- providing me with an array of tasks that helped us enhance our management skills, communication skills and interpersonal relations and also shaped us to bea better fit in the real working world.
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