The “urge to live” and “being optimistic about dealing with traumatic situations” were among the findings of a study that aimed at examining the resilience of internal migrants living in Pune.
“Mental health resilience of internal migrants is an untold story. Mental health narratives of internal migrants tend to focus on the prevalence of psychological distress, anxiety and depression, but there is scant evidence about the resilience of migrant slum dwellers,” says Raghu Raghavan, Professor of Mental Health at De Montfert University, Leicester, UK, who is leading the first-of-its-kind research project that looks at the resilience of men, women and children who have migrated to Pune from other parts of India.
“The mental trauma of arriving in a new area, finding work, earning money, looking after family and ensuring there is a roof over their heads all add to the daily stress,” Raghvan said, adding, “Yet, without any mental health professionals or medication, the migrants were showing high levels of resilience in coping with these challenges.”
These and other findings of the project — funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) — were discussed at a two-day conference ‘Mental health, migration and resilience: Innovative methodologies for research, policy and practice in India’ held in Pune at YASHADA.
Raghavan, along with researchers from Tata Institute of Social Sciences and National Institute of Mental Health Neurosciences (NIMHANS) and Institute of Health Management at Pachod and others, have been engaged in the project related to the mental health of internal migrants in Pune.
“The lack of knowledge about how migrants mediate risk in the midst of adversities and construct resilience for positive living is an untold story. We used theatre storytelling practices to raise awareness of mental health and provide support for migrant slum dwellers in Pune,” Raghavan told The Indian Express. Over two years, investigators have been working with internal migrants living in Pune slums to examine their mental resilience in the face of adversity.
Their stories were then told in the form of theatre performances by the Swatantra theatre group in Pune. Theatre allowed the communities to tell their stories of finding solutions by themselves and the findings of the project highlight the importance of optimism for good mental health among internal migrants. “Optimism seems to enhance a person’s hardiness and sense of coherence,” Raghavan said.
The narratives of the community and theatre production show the “urge to live” of people and families in the slums via their ongoing confrontation with mental distress.