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With passing time, mankind encounters newer challenges and situations which did not exist decades ago. The population explosion also brings, in its wake, competition in all spheres of life with the result that survival itself becomes a cause of stress. It is well recognised that individuals differ in their ability to cope with this stress and to find ways and means to come to grips with the situation. Stress can manifest externally in a variety of forms, leading to behavioural changes. Such behavioural changes can not only alter the way of life of the individual but also affect adversely the life of those closely connected with his/her life.

Fortunately, coping skills can be imparted or acquired, to help individuals realise and utilise the inherent strength within, through proper counselling. It is necessary, however, to first identify the individuals who are under stress and to estimate the degree of stress, and amenability to counselling.

The ICMR study (Phase I) on the "Indicators of Mental Health" led to the development of instruments for identifying a family "at risk". The results showed that, if the mother is at risk (under stress) and not able to cope, then the health of the entire family, particularly that of the children would suffer. By appropriate counselling, the mother's coping skills can be improved so that she can overcome the stress. When this is achieved, the health indices of children show remarkable improvement. An important collateral benefit is that the home itself becomes more congenial and a better place to live in for the entire family.

The ICMR study has shown that the instruments developed are very sensitive in detecting the "at risk families" and that the family intervention is effective. A significant outcome of the study is that the health workers (i.e., Aanganwadi workers) who carried out this study also benefited by it by acquiring new skills in dealing with the family members. Such family counselling skills are easy to teach and can be practised as part of any of the health programmes entrusted to the health workers for implementation. Intervention programmes which take the entire family system into consideration thus have a better chance of success than the conventional educational programmes incorporated in the health system.

The ICMR hopes that the findings of the study given, in detail, in this Report will be useful to all health personnel and that these results could be meaningfully applied as an integral part of the Research and Health programmes through a variety of community based interventions in our country.

New Delhi

Director General, ICMR


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