(Taken from Psychiatry, Science, Religion and Health, MSM Annual 2004.)
We are not here to do (only a little better) what the others do.We are here to do what the others cannot do because they do not have the idea that it can be done.
- The Mother, Sept. 1961.
Mens Sana Monographs (MSM) tend to look at events and issues from a somewhat different perspective. There are two main types of publications. Both serve important needs and have a committed readership. One type tends to be academic and technical to the extent of being incomprehensible to anyone except one intimately connected with the subject. These are the mainstream academic research publications of the respective disciplines. One the other hand are periodicals that cater to the interests of the moment, which are racy, sensational and as easily forgotten as eagerly read. (Not that they lay claims to any eternality.) These are the newspapers, magazines, tabloids and other periodicals which fulfil our need to be aware of the multiplicity of the environment in which we exist. Both these approaches, though important, however leave a gap. The academic can be too austere for comfort, the tabloid too familiar for deeper reflection; the former too bland, the latter too spicy. An approach that provides food for thought and reflection without being too technical and elitist is therefore likely to bridge the divide between them. In other words, neither bland nor spicy: nutritious but without foregoing taste. MSM has been an attempt in that direction. This middle path is the first fundamental pillar of this publication.
| Comprehensivity and Evidence
The second is comprehensivity. The six diverse topics covered is this MSM Annual 2004 bear testimony to the fact that MSM intends to live upto its vision of providing 'in-depth understanding of psychiatric/ psychological/philosophical consequences of social disorders/ issues and current events, written in an easy to read format, avoiding technical jargonas far as possible, but based on evidence and research studies'. For example the first three monographs deal with psychiatric issues/ disorders or current events. They are (1) Psychiatric consequences of the WTC collapse and the Gulf war; (2) Towards a suicide free society: Identify suicide prevention as public health policy; and (3) What shall we do about our concern with the most recent in psychiatric research? The fourth monograph deals with an issue in the philosophy of science (Replicative Nature of Indian Research, Essence of Scientific Temper, and Future of Scientific Progress). The fifth monograph deals with an attempt by Gandhi to resolve the social disorder and strife that diverse religious beliefs can occasion in a multireligious society like India (Gandhi on Religion, Faith and Conversion: Secular Blueprint Relevant Today). The sixth and final monograph deals with health not just as an individual or medical concern, but as a social issue, wherein health of the members of society can only be ensured by the people's awareness of their rights, and active participation in a health conscious community's movement towards better health (The Goal: Health for All; The Commitment: All for Health). Hence the title of this collection: Psychiatry, Science, Religion and Health.
The six topics covered are different in content and, if we may dare to say, comprehensive in their scope. MSM intends to provide a wide platform for serious discussion by thinkers in diverse fields like 'psychiatrists, social scientists, philosophers, sociologists and other thinkers interested in exploring social issues with scientific rigour'. Hence the topics covered tend to be different and comprehensive too. But evidence and scientific rigour in studying even social issues is another essential pillar of the MSM. Therefore mere impressionistic portrayals and opinions not backed by necessary evidence may hardly find a place in these monographs.
If the middle path, comprehensivity and evidence are the three pillars of MSM, the fourth is eclecticism. The MSM is not committed to any ideology or approach to the exclusion of the rest, nor does it have any private agenda to fulfil. Its only commitment is to further understanding and awareness of issues of consequence to society with special emphasis on social issues, psychological awareness and health, especially mental health. Its approach shall always remain an integrated one, a conglomerate of all evidence-based approaches that best clarify matters and motivate individuals and groups towards action aimed at reduction of social morbidity and psychopathology.We only hope the vision, and momentum generated in the present, can be maintained in the years to come. And you too feel part of this whole movement, and share its enthusiasm to make a difference where it matters. But if that is something to feel proud of, let us also note that to start something different is difficult but not very, but to sustain it, is. And its how these four pillars sustain the MSM in the years to come that will test the strength and resilience of MSM, as of the four concepts themselves. We hope here too you feel part of this whole endeavour.
This MSM Annual 2004 is dedicated to the memory of a well respected name in the field of psychiatry, the late Prof. L. P. Shah. His contribution to the making of a number of psychiatrists (including one of us), to the development of Indian Psychiatry, and to the linkage of Indian Psychiatry with World Psychiatry have been, to say the least, substantial. His staunch belief in Psychiatry as a medical discipline was matched by the equally strong belief that Psychiatry could not do away with psychotherapy and deeper understanding of the psyche of an individual. And that Psychiatry also had an important role to play as a social science. Moreover, his whole life was a great testimony to the triumph of the spirit over matter. All those whose lives were touched by this gentle soul can only feel ennobled by the deep impressions that his magnanimous personality left on them. His commitments and beliefs were well matched by his life long companion and life partner, the gentle and most gracious Ms. Hema Shah, herself a contributor of no small magnitude to the Mental Health Movement in India. We carry a homage to this important pillar of Indian Psychiatry written by her. We do deeply appreciate her gesture in writing this dedication and thank her for rising above her personal grief and loss to communicate her thoughts and feelings about this noble soul. The Mens Sana Monographs wish to offer deepest condolences to her on this irreparable loss and hope and pray his soul rests in eternal peace (and prashanti , as he was always prone to point out). We hope and pray that his zest for life and work in the field of Psychiatry, and his fine qualities of head and heart, continue to guide scores of psychiatrists of today, and the future, to respond to the challenges of change in their branch with freshness and spontaneity, but without being overwhelmed by any.
| Psychiatrists as Psychopharmacologists
It's exiting times in which we live. So much is changing all around, and yet so much needs to remain, and does remain, firmly rooted. Changes sweep the dust of indolence and laxity, besides of course sweeping off the desirable too at times. The decisive paradigm shift towards psychopharmacology and biological approaches to behaviour has alarmed a number of senior practitioners and senior researchers in Psychiatry. That Psychiatrists are turning more psychopharmacologists and lesser psychotherapists is the reality of today. But that is no real cause for alarm. Because as long as they produce results and back up their opinions with evidence, they indeed need to prosper. The apprehension, of course, is that legitimate growth of psychotherapy may get sidelined, or the brighter minds may be averse to taking up psychotherapy because it is no longer the in-thing to do. But such a flux state is inevitable in the advancement of any branch. Ultimately, the psychotherapeutic approach itself will benefit by shedding its smug somnolence, become more evidence and experiment based, offer verifiable population statistics to back up its contentions, and compete with biological approaches with greater methodological rigour. This manthan, or flux, is inevitable, and indeed welcome, if we wish to chart new and exciting frontiers in the field of Psychiatry in particular, and all social sciences in general. The discomfort of today is only a prelude to the comfort of tomorrow. Hopefully. For the seeds of comfort lie in every discomfort, as the seeds of discomfort lie in every comfort.
We are indeed fortunate to live in such exciting times. The Mens Sana Monographs will attempt to unfold some of the dramatic changes as they occur during this period.
Hope you are with us all the way.
Mens Sana Monographs