Sunil Kumar M

Sunil Kumar

Senior Science & Innovation Adviser

Part of Global Science and Innovation Network

23rd May 2013 Bangalore, India

On my mind!

According to Time to Change, a UK campaign to challenge stigma around mental health, one in four of us will be affected by a mental health problem in a given year. In this context, you perhaps shouldn’t be surprised to hear that I’ve been to two mental heath institutions in the past couple of weeks. However, I was there to learn about the institutes and their research programmes!

I discovered that mental illness is a huge issue in India and there are varying estimates about the enormity of the problem. According to one, about 70 million people suffer from it. In addition to ‘common’ mental disorders (anxiety, depression etc), addictions, suicide and other behavioural manifestations of mental ill health are increasing. Mental disorders are considered a taboo so people feel uncomfortable talking about them, and they therefore still remain neglected.  In the UK, dementia has been identified as a major issue;  in March 2012 Prime Minister David Cameron launched Dementia Challenge to improve the lives of senior citizens.

Considering the enormity of the problem, the SIN team decided to explore opportunities for joint research collaboration between the UK and India.


Last week, I visited the well-known National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) in Bangalore. Despite being a Bangalorean, I had never ventured inside this huge Institute, which the Government of India has recognised as an ‘institute of national importance’ and is celebrating 75 years of its existence this year. What is amazing about the institute is that it is multidisciplinary. It not only treats patients but also trains, conducts research in a wide range of areas from psychiatry, cognition to neuroimaging and neurobiology.  It is also the only institute in India to have a brain bank.

NIHMANS has extensive collaborations with other institutes. Recently, they announced that they would increasingly be doing new work in the field of brain disorders with the Indian Institute of Science and the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore.

In the UK, NIMHANS works closely with the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych), London for research and exchange of faculty and Liverpool University. UK students are also known to visit as observers for a month. Director Dr. P Satishchandra feels more partnerhsips are possible with the UK especially in areas such as mental health disorder prevention and intervention using cross cultural methods. Some of the areas such as psychoses, Geriatic Mental Health and Addiction could be good for UK-India collaboration, he felt.

My other visit this week was to the Kilpauk Mental Hospital in Chennai, which is also called as the Institute of Mental Health. Like NIHMANS, it has a huge campus. It is funded by the Tamil Nadu State Health Department and it was founded in 1794 as an asylum to manage 20 patients. But it has grown over time. There are about 1200 in-patients and about 200 people are treated as out-patients each day. Given its long history, it has maintained a large data on treatment regimes and effects. Unlike, NIHMANS, its strength lies in its rehabilitation services. The Rehabilitation Council of India has identified the institute as one of the training centres for training rehabilitation personnel.

However, it has undertaken some research especially in Tsunami affected areas on the coast of Tamil Nadu and also urban mental health. On the academic front, the institute offers MD in Psychiatric Medicine which is very popular. A large number of students who graduated from this institute have made their way into the UK as professionals.

Going forward, we aim to contact other institutes in India and conduct a workshop in the coming months to explore research areas for collaboration between both the countries. So there is more to come on mental health. Keep in touch!

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About Sunil Kumar

Sunil leads on developing research collaborations in Advanced Engineering, Information and Communication Technologies and space. He has varied interests ranging from aerospace, environmental sciences, media to life-sciences. He has a…

Sunil leads on developing research collaborations in Advanced Engineering, Information and Communication Technologies and space. He has varied interests ranging from aerospace, environmental sciences, media to life-sciences. He has a MSc in Environmental Science and diplomas in Environmental Law and Mass Communication. Sunil has a work experience of 17 years. He started his career working on ant ecology at Indian Institute of Science. Later he worked on areas such as conservation practices, protected areas and water pollution at the Centre for Environment Education. He also worked as a journalist at Deccan Herald writing on science and environment. Sunil has also worked on knowledge management with an IT company. Prior to joining the Science and Innovation Network, Sunil worked with UK Trade and Investment as a lead officer for the aerospace sector. Sunil has authored two books and more than 200 popular articles.

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