Developments at the Intersections of Psychology, Policy and Law: May Edition

A monthly segment of psytizenship

Last month, I started experimenting with a new segment of psytizenship entitled ‘Developments at the Intersections of Psychology, Policy and Law’, which covers the latest updates in this field (with a particular, but not exclusive, focus on India). I share news, articles, court judgements, government orders, laws and research papers related to mental health policies and laws in this segment. The last Friday of a month is reserved for it.

Let’s see what we have in this edition:

1.     Rehabilitation Council of India’s Model Recruitment Rules: On May 12, the RCI came up with new Model Recruitment Rules for the Rehabilitation Professionals and Personnel, including clinical and rehabilitation psychologists. For an entry level Assistant Professor in Clinical Psychology or Rehabilitation Psychology (Teaching), the prescribed pay band (as per 7th Central Pay Commission) is Level‐11 Rs. 67700 ‐ 208700. For a practising Clinical Psychologist or Rehabilitation Psychologist (Non-Teaching), the pay band is Level‐10 Rs. 56100 ‐ 177500, and for an Associate Clinical Psychologist or Associate Rehabilitation Psychologist (Non-Teaching), it is Level‐8 Rs. 47600 – 151100.

When the notification came out, I saw several posts on social media full of happiness as the psychologists hoped that they would get better pay and perks now. I was puzzled by this sentiment as my immediate thought was that these Rules were just advisory in nature and not going to be enforced. The old Model Recruitment Rules, notified in 2016, were not implemented either, but, as it turned out, the psychology professionals and students were not even aware of the old Rules. Hence, the misplaced optimism.

Can the Indian Association of Clinical Psychologists ensure the implementation of new Rules? I am not even hopeful enough to say ‘time will tell’.

2.     Wales Government to Launch Universal Basic Income (UBI) Pilot: The social and structural determinants such as income and job security influence health heavily and account for between 30%-55% of health outcomes. Therefore, they are a major focus of health policy around the world. As income and wealth inequality rises, unconditional cash support has gained more and more popularity in various countries. The Welsh government is the latest to announce a Universal Basic Income pilot. The first minister Mark Drakeford said:

“A basic income pilot is one of the specific responsibilities of our new social justice minister. It will have to be carefully designed, it will draw on the experience of attempted pilots in Scotland, but I have a very longstanding interest in basic income. I hope we will be able to mount an experiment here that will test whether the claims that are made for a basic income approach are actually delivered… I want to do it on that broad basis and design the best possible pilot.”

Question: there have been so many successful pilot studies of UBI around the world. The last edition of ‘Developments at the Intersections of Psychology, Policy and Law’ covered the effects of Bolsa Familia, the world’s largest conditional cash transfer programme, on suicide rates in a cohort of half the Brazilian population. Despite so much success, why has no country launched a full-fledged UBI program yet?

3.     Under distress due to debt and pending payments for their harvest, many farmers of Uttar Pradesh have destroyed their crops. A farmer said, jab pareshani mein lambe time tak koi sadasya reh jaave, wo maansik tanaav ka shikar jrur banega (When a person remains burdened under such problems for a long time, they are bound to face psychological issues.) We are back to the social and structural determinants of mental health. Watch the video (11 minutes):

4.     Climate Change and Mental Health: Dr Emma Lawrence, Rhiannon Thompson, Gianluca Fontana and Dr Neil Jennings of Imperial College London have published a briefing paper entitled 'the impact of climate change on mental health and emotional wellbeing: current evidence and implications for policy and practice'. They have stated that

  • There is a clear relationship between increased temperatures and the number of suicides;

  • There is clear evidence for severe distress following extreme weather events;

  • People who meet the criteria for mental illness are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change on physical as well as mental health;

  • The climate crisis threatens to disrupt the provision of care for people with a mental illness diagnosis; and

  • Climate change exacerbates mental distress, particularly among young people, even for individuals who are not directly affected (e.g. ‘eco-anxiety’).

The paper contains excellent recommendations for stakeholders (e.g., government, healthcare systems, community groups, academics, emergency responders) to fully understand, manage and reduce mental health impacts of climate change. Read it here.

5.     The popular imagination and public conversations on mental health usually focus on depression, stress and anxiety disorders. Mental disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are still shrouded in public silence. Hence, during the COVID-19 pandemic, I actively looked for papers and articles focusing on the latter and directed private conversations towards this topic. A recently published article by Riddhi Dastidar on IndiaSpend focuses on workplace support for women with schizophrenia. They write:

For women living with schizophrenia to pursue meaningful employment and live independently, locally available and accessible community care for symptom management (as opposed to institutionalisation), and supported employment initiatives are required, say disability rights activists, mental health professionals and persons living with mental illness. GBD 2019 [Global Burden of Disease Study 2019] recommended using community-based programmes and non-psychiatric, community health workers to reduce the treatment gap for mental illness in India, based on existing models such as the Atmiyata programme in rural Maharashtra. Health activists on the ground supported this approach. Yet India continues to place emphasis on institutionalised care, we found.

"If [employers] can avoid recruiting a person with mental illness, most will," said Thara Rangaswamy, co-founder of SCARF and the principal researcher behind the Madras Longitudinal Study. "Persons with disabilities like visual impairment or locomotor disability are often more activist--they will fight for their rights. But people living with schizophrenia often don't do it at all, either because their functioning is impaired by symptomatology, or the cost of disclosure is so high because this is one disability where stigma clouds everything."

This must-read deep dive is available here.

Finally, another article worth reading: Covid-19: Pandemic triggers mental disorders but insurance eludes many.


Share

Did you recently come across any important development at the intersections of psychology, policy and law? If yes, please share in the comments section.

Leave a comment


PS. Today is the martyrdom anniversary of my favourite freedom fighter Shaheed Bhagwati Charan Vohra. I had written a short Twitter thread about him last year on the 90th anniversary. Read on by clicking on the tweet below.


Follow Ajay Gulzar on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.