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India's Vikram Patel gets 2014 Sarnat Prize in mental health

Washington, Oct 21 (IANS) Vikram Patel, a noted Indian psychiatrist, has been awarded a prestigious US award for his research in the field of global mental health and improved care for those with mental disorders in resource-poor countries.

The Institute of Medicine awarded the 2014 Rhoda and Bernard Sarnat International Prize in Mental Health to Patel, professor of international mental health and Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and at the Public Health Foundation of India.

The prize recognises the New Delhi-based researcher’s achievements with a medal and a $20,000 award, according to a media release from the National Academy of Sciences.

“Through his research, Vikram Patel not only brought a largely unacknowledged problem — mental health disorders in developing nations — into the view of the world’s policymakers and healthcare organisations, he has also identified and advanced practical solutions to help those who are suffering,” said Victor Dzau, president of the Institute of Medicine.

Patel conducted groundbreaking epidemiological research that revealed the burden of mental disorders in low and middle-income nations and showed a strong link between mental disorders and poverty, the release said.

His research also demonstrated that evidence-based treatments for mental illness can be delivered effectively in these countries by non-specialist healthcare workers, it said.

Much of this work was carried out in collaboration with Sangath, a non-profit organisation in India.

“Patel played a lead role in synthesising evidence that has shaped the foundation of the field of global mental health and promoted its dissemination by editing key journal series and textbooks that form the basis of teaching and practice in the field,” the release said.

Patel’s research has galvanised policymakers and donors to address the large unmet need for mental healthcare in developing countries and promoted practical tools to improve care in areas where mental health specialists are lacking, it said.

His 2003 manual, “Where There Is No Psychiatrist”, has been used by community health workers worldwide and has been translated into over a dozen languages.

Since 1992, the Institute of Medicine has presented the Sarnat Prize to individuals, groups, or organisations that have demonstrated outstanding achievement in improving mental health.

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