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This Global Challenges research partnership project on mental health literacy marks a radical shift in our understanding of how a participatory and co-production model with rural and urban communities in India can help us to co-construct knowledge of mental health literacy for health and wellbeing. Our partnership involves a diverse body of scholars across mental health, social work, public health, health communication, clinical education and social sciences and performing arts, i.e., drama researchers and groups in the UK and in India. The new confluences that this will bring should promote critical enquiry into and innovations in co-creating knowledge on a model of culturally appropriate mental health literacy (MHL) for millions of people in Kerala. This should enable them to recognise mental ill-health, reduce stigma surrounding mental health, and seek help for leading healthy lives thus promoting economic and social development. This research will spearhead the involvement of performing arts using a novel approach to the understanding of MHL and its applicability in promoting mental health and reducing stigma of mental health in a country that is poised to become the second largest economy in the World by 2050.It will offer a clear response to the call using cross-disciplinary expertise to tackle the global challenges to mental health and wellbeing for millions of people in India and provide demonstrable impacts for health education, policy and service development through the use of media, applied theatre and inclusive participatory approaches.

The findings will be disseminated: (a) though a national conference in India in association with the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Public Health Foundation of India and the Indian council for Medical Research, De Montfort University’s Square Mile India programme and NGO organisations, and(b) in the UK through a conference with the Mental Health Foundation and Public Health England; through the International Mental Health Collaborating Network(UK); and through World Psychiatric Association, and mental Health Innovation Network, which is a global community of mental health innovators. This project will also be of value to the growing number of departments in universities and related institutions in India, the UK and around the world which are concerned with the holistic, whole-system view of development challenges, and generating new insights into how this could be tackled. It will enable these scholars, early career researchers and post graduates involved in the project to be at the heart of fast growing cross disciplinary research areas (e.g., Health Humanities) to compete in the international arena.

This partnership project will enable partners in the UK & India to further develop interdisciplinary research collaboration on the applicability of MHL and wellbeing with rural and fast growing urban communities using novel methodologies. Our collaborations and networks will enable us to foster lasting partnerships to explore UN sustainable development goals through further grant applications. This consortium is enriched by a team of scholars and junior members on a trajectory of excellence in applied arts and health research relevant for promoting mental health and wellbeing. It is anticipated that this research collaboration will help to further enrich our cultural and scientific dialogues and facilitate the development of new partnerships with other national and international researchers for large scale studies on mental health promotion. This project and its legacy will also advance De Montfort University’s on-going initiatives in India to help some of the world’s poorest families through the Square Mile India programme combining the expertise of our academics with the skills of its students, to develop capacity for global public health research and to explore novel initiatives for improving the education, health and living conditions of thousands.