(Taken from Psychiatry, Science, Religion and Health,
MSM Annual 2004. Excerpts.)
We are not here to do (only a little
better) what the others do. We are here to do what the others cannot do because they do not have the idea that it can be done.
- The Mother, Sept. 1961.
Mens Sana Monographs (MSM) tend to look at events and issues from a somewhat different perspective.
There are two main types of publications. Both serve important needs and have a committed readership. One type tends to be
academic and technical to the extent of being incomprehensible to anyone except one intimately connected with the subject.
These are the mainstream academic research publications of the respective disciplines. One the other hand are periodicals
that cater to the interests of the moment, which are racy, sensational and as easily forgotten as eagerly read. (Not that
they lay claims to any eternality.) These are the newspapers, magazines, tabloids and other periodicals which fulfil our need
to be aware of the multiplicity of the environment in which we exist. Both these approaches, though important,
however leave a gap. The academic can be too austere for comfort, the tabloid too familiar for deeper reflection; the former
too bland, the latter too spicy. An approach that provides food for thought and reflection without being too technical and
elitist is therefore likely to bridge the divide between them. In other words, neither bland nor spicy: nutritious but without
foregoing taste. MSM has
been an attempt in that direction. This middle path is
the first fundamental pillar of this publication.
Comprehensivity and Evidence
The second is comprehensivity. The six diverse topics covered is this MSM Annual
2004 bear testimony to the fact that MSM intends to live
upto its vision of providing ‘in-depth understanding of psychiatric/ psychological/philosophical consequences of social
disorders/ issues and current events, written in an easy to read format, avoiding technical jargonas far as possible, but
based on evidence and research studies’. For example the first three monographs deal with psychiatric issues/ disorders
or current events. They are (1) Psychiatric consequences of the WTC collapse and the Gulf war; (2) Towards
a suicide free society: Identify suicide prevention as public health policy; and (3) What shall we do about our concern with the most recent in psychiatric research? The
fourth monograph deals with an issue in the philosophy of science (Replicative Nature of Indian Research,
Essence of Scientific Temper, and Future of Scientific Progress). The fifth monograph deals with an attempt
by Gandhi to resolve the social disorder and strife that diverse religious beliefs can occasion in a multireligious society
like India (Gandhi on Religion, Faith and Conversion: Secular
Blueprint Relevant Today). The sixth and final monograph
deals with health not just as an individual or medical concern, but as a social issue, wherein health of the members of society
can only be ensured by the people’s awareness of their rights,
and active participation in a health conscious community’s movement towards better health (The Goal: Health for All; The Commitment: All for Health). Hence the title of this collection:
Psychiatry, Science, Religion and Health.
The six topics covered are different in content and, if we may dare to say, comprehensive in their
scope. MSM intends to
provide a wide platform for serious discussion by thinkers in diverse fields like ‘psychiatrists, social scientists,
philosophers, sociologists and other thinkers interested in exploring social issues with scientific rigour’. Hence the
topics covered tend to be different and comprehensive too. But evidence and scientific rigour in studying even social
issues is another essential pillar of the MSM. Therefore
mere impressionistic portrayals and opinions not backed by necessary evidence may hardly find a place in these monographs.
If the middle path, comprehensivity and evidence are the three pillars of MSM, the fourth is eclecticism. The MSM
is not committed to any ideology or approach to the exclusion of the rest, nor does it have any private agenda to fulfil.
Its only commitment is to further understanding and awareness of issues of consequence to society with special emphasis on
social issues, psychological awareness and health, especially mental health. Its approach shall always remain an integrated
one, a conglomerate of all evidence-based approaches that best clarify matters and motivate individuals and groups towards
action aimed at reduction of social morbidity and psychopathology.We only hope the vision, and momentum generated in the present,
can be maintained in the years to come. And you too feel part of this whole movement, and share its enthusiasm to make a difference
where it matters. But if that is something to feel proud of, let us also note that to start something different is difficult
but not very, but to sustain it, is. And its how these four pillars sustain the MSM in the years to come that will
test the strength and resilience of MSM, as of the four concepts themselves. We hope here too you feel part of this
Psychiatrists as Psychopharmacologists
It's exiting times in which we live. So much is changing all around, and yet so much needs to remain, and does
remain, firmly rooted. Changes sweep the dust of indolence and laxity, besides of course sweeping off the desirable too at
times. The decisive paradigm shift towards psychopharmacology and biological approaches to behaviour has alarmed a number
of senior practitioners and senior researchers in Psychiatry. That Psychiatrists are turning more psychopharmacologists and
lesser psychotherapists is the reality of today. But that is no real cause for alarm. Because as long as they produce results
and back up their opinions with evidence, they indeed need to prosper. The apprehension, of course, is that legitimate growth
of psychotherapy may get sidelined, or the brighter minds may be averse to taking up psychotherapy because it is no longer
the in-thing to do. But such a flux state is inevitable in the advancement of any branch. Ultimately, the psychotherapeutic
approach itself will benefit by shedding its smug somnolence, become more evidence and experiment based, offer verifiable
population statistics to back up its contentions, and compete with biological approaches with greater methodological rigour.
This manthan, or flux, is inevitable,
and indeed welcome, if we wish to chart new and exciting frontiers in the field of Psychiatry in particular, and all social
sciences in general. The discomfort of today is only a prelude to the comfort of tomorrow. Hopefully. For the seeds of comfort
lie in every discomfort, as the seeds of discomfort lie in every comfort.
We are indeed fortunate to live in such exciting times. The Mens Sana Monographs
will attempt to unfold some of the dramatic changes as they occur
during this period.
Hope you are with us all the way.
Mens Sana Monographs
MSM Annual 2004
See also: Conceptual foundations of Mens Sana Monographs at MSM
Mens Sana Monographs [MSM]: A Mens Sana Research Foundation Publication