Like an old train rolling

Professor Catherine Robinson, Dr Anne Krayer and I have been in Mysuru for a week now. It has been hard work. We have helped to organise a ‘master trainer’ event over two days, the first element in our project funded by the Tropical Health Education Trust. The attendance was larger than we expected, about 25 people in all. With the participants and our partners in Mysuru, we have put together a training package for general hospital doctors. The aim is to ensure that all Deliberate Self Harm (DSH) patients have a psychiatric assessment, and that they are offered treatment for mental illness where this is appropriate. Treatment may be counselling, psychotherapy or medication. We had no fixed ideas about the content of the training at the beginning, but we all agreed that it should be delivered in an interactive programme that was relevant to the working environment of general hospital doctors in Mysuru.

It has been amazing to see the enthusiasm and optimism of the psychiatrists and psychologists engaging with this task. The senior physicians we have spoken to have been really supportive and helpful. We have developed the programme collaboratively, and it looks excellent to me. The trainers, now duly trained, are going to deliver it. DSH training will be part of the medical Continuing Professional Development programmes here, and the first course will run before we leave, so that we can help to iron out any problems.


Over the last few days, we have been joined by Professor Vimal Sharma and Matt Bowen from Chester University. Vimal devised the GMHAT-PC, a computer guided mental health assessment tool for non-specialists that you can read about here. Many years ago, when Vimal first told me that he was developing it, I was quite certain that it would never work. I was totally wrong. Once you get used to using it, GMHAT-PC only takes 10 to 15 minutes to administer. This means it can be used as a triage tool in an environment where huge numbers of patients are seen every day. It is intended that the DSH programme will be sustained in the long term and that all doctors who deal with DSH patients will engage in the training, which will be iterative. Treating mental illness amongst DSH patients can prevent recurrent DSH and death, but it is only one part of an overall suicide prevention strategy. For now, it is a good start.

The titles of these Indian blogs are taken from a poem that Catherine wrote after our visit last year. I turned it into a song and you can hear it here.  It was recorded with Chester Weiss this spring. The song is about the drought in South India. I am not a superstitious person, and I see no causal link between the use of these lyrics and the fact that there has been monsoon weather here for the past five days. Everyone is very pleased at the volume of rain that has fallen. If we had been tempted to spend too much time by the hotel pool, the weather would have kept us on the straight and narrow. I have bought a cheap and truly terrible Indian guitar, a “Givson”. It is essentially unplayable, but sounds great for slide/blues. We will see if another song emerges.