The stated goal of the Department of Mental Health Education at NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and NeuroSciences) is that it prepares students, health care professionals, caregivers and the community at large to promote health in individual and group settings, and among diverse populations using culturally appropriate health education methodologies. Its goal is to facilitate voluntary health-related behavioral and social change through the application of principles of behavioral and social sciences.
Dr. K.S. Meena, Associate Professor, leads the Mental Health Department at NIMHANS. Her interest in Positive Strokes was piqued when she heard that this was a behavior change program that uses positive reinforcement to improve safe road behaviors in Bangalore. The department runs a fellowship program for graduates and post graduates from diverse medical disciplines. These fellowship students, Dr. Sharmitha, Dr. Manik, Ms. Suvarna and Mr. Xavier come with a collective background in Public Health, Medicine, Psychology and Psychiatric Social Work. They also found the Positive Strokes idea of using positive reinforcement novel and wanted to gain a better understanding of the program.
What ensued was a very engaging two day & two way interaction and experiential session with these young, already accomplished and driven individuals. Discussions began with the genesis of Positive Strokes, intended and actual outcomes, methods employed in the implementation and challenges faced through the process of setting up the program and current challenges. We also ended up having deep discussions about value systems of our community, about what drives and motivates people, about the relative advantages of punishments vs positivity in interactions and the need for both to be commensurate to the act. We spoke of states of mind of people and road users, parenting, public health, public office, the police and much more.
The second day of the interaction was a hands on activity at the Traffic Management Center. As it happens often, the students found it easier to find vehicles that were violating rules and more difficult to identify good road behaviors. Again, as it happens often, they learnt some rules themselves, realized that some of their ways on the road was less than ideal and went away with the resolve to be more aware while on the road.
The interaction opened some new possibilities for exploring and furthering some of our work in behavior change. This was such an enriching two days overall!