Author: Salesian Missions

Publication Date: August 08, 2023

Easing the Stigma of Mental Illness

Despite rising global awareness around the many issues impacting mental health, equitable access to effective care remains elusive—especially in marginalized communities where social stigma, poor educational opportunities, and inadequate funding stand in the way. The Don Bosco Prafulta Center for Psychological Wellness aims to change that, one intervention at a time.

“The evidence is clear. Poor mental health can lead to a cascading series of negative effects, both for individuals and the societies they live in,” explains Father Timothy Ploch, interim director of Salesian Missions. “We know that untreated mental illness can lead to substance abuse, unemployment, homelessness, incarceration and more. In addition to significantly reduced life expectancy, all of these things can perpetuate the cycles of poverty and social inequality.”

That’s precisely why Don Bosco Prafulta exists. Located in Mumbai, India, this specialized center seeks to treat mental illness and improve mental wellness among children, youth and adults from all walks of life. The Center employs more than 30 professionals who are committed to breaking down India’s many barriers of access to care so that everyone has the opportunity to live healthy lives.

Father Godfrey D’Sa, a Salesian priest and licensed psychotherapist, founded Don Bosco Prafulta in 1998 and remains director to this day. During this time, thousands of people have sought and received psychiatric services, psycho-educational assessments, counseling (in-person and virtual), career guidance, remedial education, occupational therapy, and more. These opportunities are critical in India, where nearly 11 percent of the population lives with a mental health condition—yet as many as 85 percent of those people do not receive the help they need. Social stigma, a shortage of trained mental health providers, poor government funding, and other factors all contribute to this critical care gap.

Recently, the Center hosted a community-based mental health fair intended to address some of these challenges. Staffed by 50 mental health care providers and 80 psychology students from two nearby universities, the fair served 3,600 area children and their parents.

Kids learned how to process difficult emotions like anger, sadness, nervousness and fear, and had opportunities to express their emotions through art, painting, storytelling, dance and movement, pottery and more. Adults participated in parenting workshops, career guidance sessions, and activities designed to promote productive thinking, creativity and how to stay positive in life.

“We believe that normalizing conversations around mental health will eventually lead to better mental health care,” says Shalu Mehrolta, senior psychotherapist at Don Bosco Prafulta.

The chief guest of the health fair agrees. “Mental health is a very crucial issue today,” explains Oswald D’Souza, of L&T Energy Hydrocarbon—which is a corporate supporter of the wellness program at Don Bosco Prafulta. “I come from the business world and it’s fast-paced. We really don’t have the time to pause and think about mental health and how it affects people. Physical ailments are easily noticeable, and we start taking medication once it is visible. But mental ailments work below the surface very quietly and result in behaviors that eventually affect the environment that we work in, play in, and live in.  I am happy that L&T Energy Hydrocarbon is collaborating with Don Bosco Prafulta on this crucial issue.”

When it comes to improving mental health, every small step matters.

Learn more about our work in India.

Our mission helps improve physical and psychological health in underserved communities by addressing inequitable access to necessary care. What’s your mission?

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