India is a land of diverse cultures and traditions. Mental health too has diverse interpretations and culturally practised healing methods. These methods vary according to the socio-demographic and religious orientation of each place. Cultural heritage practices shape the way we think and influence our help-seeking for mental health issues. The common religious practices are temple visits, prayers, bhajans, various forms of offerings, tying of a sacred thread, using holy powders etc. Muslim Thangals, Priests in temples or churches and astrologers are often the first people approached for treatment in some places. In some rural places, black magic and animal sacrifices are also practised. There are religious institutions all over India that are famous for healing mental illness. People bring their family members and loved ones showing symptoms of mental illness to these places with the hope of a cure, they often stay in such institutions for days and take the religious ceremonies with strong faith.
Some use traditional methods of treatment using local herbs. Ayurveda is a widely accepted form of medicine in India. Ayurveda also has its scientific ways of treating mental illnesses.
There are people in India who completely stick to these practices for a cure. Whereas some use these cultural religious practices along with modern medicine and psychosocial services. Some of the traditional healers refer and urge family members to take the person with mental illness to mental health professionals for better care and treatment. Spiritual or self-help techniques (e.g., yoga, spirituality, cultural customs, exercise and meditation) are also widely practised due to their ready availability and the ease with which they can be integrated into existing cultural beliefs and lifestyles, and more importantly because it makes meaning and purpose in their mental health recovery.
Many of the cultural and religious practices followed in India tend to parallel the techniques used in various psychotherapies. So biopsychosocial intervention in mental health can also incorporate these culturally followed practices into the existing modern systems. This will help the people in India to identify with the techniques and find meaning easily.