In a country where people with severe emotional problems face harsh stigmatization and abandonment, psychotherapist Ishita Sanyal has built an alternative path in Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal, India called Turning Point. It’s a thriving therapeutic community where members are related to as creative contributors to community life, and develop occupational skills to live independently.
Ishita shared with us a report on her most recent project – a 3-day-long community “happening” called, Open the Door! The program included a cast of hundreds and a range of activities: a Talent Hunt Competition, a poster contest that garnered submissions from 21 schools, a documentary film combatting stereotypes of mental illness, and a mental health quiz to help the 300 students present to develop compassion and support for peers who might be struggling with mental illness.
But most of all, it was a stage to showcase the “re-discovered” talent and creativity of those who’d been marginalized and stigmatized — to heap upon them praise, recognition and love; and to “open the door” to job opportunities, independence and full participation in society.
A panel discussion among experts including Dr. Sharmistha Chakraborty, Dr. Rupa Talukdar, Nandini Dasgupta, Romi Banerjee and Father Rodney Borneo, addressed where mental health practice must go.
“We must come out of medical model, now,” urged Sanyal, a 2007/8 International Class alumna and champion of social therapeutics across India. “Medicine and psychotherapy are needed. But to lead a fulfilling life, what people need more is a home, a job or entrepreneurship to earn their livelihood. And they need a friend.
“Recovery is nurtured by positive relationships with friends and family, as well as with service providers who believe in people’s capacities and share their sense of hope.”
Sanyal was awarded a full scholarship this year to the Institute’s advanced Social Therapeutics Online seminar