Dr Vikram Patel is a Professor of International Mental Health and Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow in Clinical Science at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (UK). He is a co-founder of Sangath, a NGO which collaborates with the LSHTM on several projects in the areas of child development, adolescent health and mental health. Sangath won the MacArthur Foundation’s International Prize in 2008 and is a pioneer of task-sharing for mental health care to primary care and community based workers. In 2003 he wrote a book ‘Where There is No Psychiatrist’ which has become a widely used manual for community mental health in developing countries that otherwise have very few resources otherwise. He was also editor of the influential Lancet series on global mental health, as well as the editor of the Lancet series on universal health care in India and the International Journal of Epidemiology series on global mental health and psychiatric epidemiology. Patel was a leader in setting up the new Movement for Global Mental Health, a global coalition of professionals and civil society working together to improve the lives of people affected by mental illness. His passion lies in contributing to the goal of improving access to mental health care and promoting the human rights of people with mental disorders worldwide.
My Definition Of Success | My meaning of success has changed over the years. At the start of my career, my focus was on my own success in my chosen field. In recent years, it was success for the field to achieve its broader goals of improving access to care for people with mental health problems. Today, success is to make myself redundant by ensuring a new, youthful and inspired, generation of researchers and advocates for public health more generally, and mental health more specifically.
I Am Driven By | Injustice. In the specific case of the cause I champion, the driving motivation is the huge injustice society metes out to people with mental health problems and disabilities, discriminating against them in all aspects of life and across the life course.
My Highlights | I am most proud for having played a key role in the global movement to improve the quality of life for people affected by mental health problems, a movement which has engaged diverse groups in society from those who live with such problems to researchers like myself. I am also proud of my contribution to building institutions, notably Sangath in India, for only strong and vibrant institutions can sustain the work that one is passionate about.
A Key Talent | My singular talent has been to open my mind to learn from disciplines outside my own and examine how disruptive innovations, i.e. out of the box ways of thinking about problems, championed by those disciplines may help solve challenges in my field. When you confront a problem which seems beyond solution, look beyond the walls which constrain your imagination to other disciplines, even those which seem completely unrelated to your own. There are plenty of ideas out there which you can profit from.
Principles I Live By | That all people, and all communities, have innate resources to deal with the myriad challenges we face in our daily lives. But not all people and communities are endowed with equal capabilities to make optimal use of these resources. Our role as ‘change-agents’ is to enable the right circumstances to enable all people to maximize their capabilities and to use these to fulfil their own life goals.
Lessons I Have Learnt | To listen to those whom you seek to serve, to be guided by them and to be accountable to them.
My Future Dreams And Ambitions | My dream is to live in a world where all people have universal access to the highest quality of education and health care, rather than stratified according to how much a person can afford to pay or their social class or gender or any other personal characteristic
Advice On Building Wealth | Don’t ever make your life’s goal becoming ‘rich’ for this is guaranteed to lead you into a path of deceit or disappointment or, most likely, both. Your happiness will ultimately lie in the happiness of others and the greatest wealth you can accumulate is the joy of seeing others benefit from your work.
I Am Inspired By | People who have struggled against injustice, in particular those who have adopted non-violence as a mantra, are my greatest inspirations. As you might imagine, people like Gandhi, Mandela and King would be obvious inspirations, but I am equally inspired by the smaller acts of ordinary people which challenge oppression by adopting a moral stand which emphasizes the rights of all human beings to being treated equally and justly. Consider as just one example, the non-violent actions of girls and women to be educated and live without fear in my country.