With passing time, mankind encounters newer challenges and
situations which did not exist decades ago. The population
explosion also brings, in its wake, competition in all spheres
of life with the result that survival itself becomes a cause
of stress. It is well recognised that individuals differ in
their ability to cope with this stress and to find ways and
means to come to grips with the situation. Stress can manifest
externally in a variety of forms, leading to behavioural changes.
Such behavioural changes can not only alter the way of life
of the individual but also affect adversely the life of those
closely connected with his/her life.
Fortunately, coping skills can be imparted or acquired, to
help individuals realise and utilise the inherent strength
within, through proper counselling. It is necessary, however,
to first identify the individuals who are under stress and
to estimate the degree of stress, and amenability to counselling.
The ICMR study (Phase I) on the "Indicators of Mental Health"
led to the development of instruments for identifying a family
"at risk". The results showed that, if the mother is at risk
(under stress) and not able to cope, then the health of the
entire family, particularly that of the children would suffer.
By appropriate counselling, the mother's coping skills can
be improved so that she can overcome the stress. When this
is achieved, the health indices of children show remarkable
improvement. An important collateral benefit is that the home
itself becomes more congenial and a better place to live in
for the entire family.
The ICMR study has shown that the instruments developed are
very sensitive in detecting the "at risk families" and that
the family intervention is effective. A significant outcome
of the study is that the health workers (i.e., Aanganwadi
workers) who carried out this study also benefited by it by
acquiring new skills in dealing with the family members. Such
family counselling skills are easy to teach and can be practised
as part of any of the health programmes entrusted to the health
workers for implementation. Intervention programmes which
take the entire family system into consideration thus have
a better chance of success than the conventional educational
programmes incorporated in the health system.
The ICMR hopes that the findings of the study given, in detail,
in this Report will be useful to all health personnel and
that these results could be meaningfully applied as an integral
part of the Research and Health programmes through a variety
of community based interventions in our country.
G. V. SATYAVATI
Director General, ICMR