Dr Manoj Kumar
Dr Manoj Kumar is the founder and Clinical Director or MHAT (Mental Health Action Trust). MHAT is a charitable trust that offers free, comprehensive, community-based, volunteer-led and cost-effective mental health care system to cater to those from the most economically backward groups of society. In doing this, he has paved the opportunity for a meaningful and productive new life to those individuals considered as incurable or a burden to society.
Dr Manoj recalls his father as being the biggest influence in his life growing up, with his occupation as a judge influencing the values of justice and empathy around the family. Attending court sessions and shadowing his father from a young age, Dr Manoj himself started to believe that all decisions that he is required to make should be out of goodness, fairness and justice. These early experiences led Dr Manoj to become a naturally inquisitive student and observer, where he always would question the status quo and try to understand why things were the way they are.
This continued with his journey into Medical College where he started questioning the corrupt, broken systems where commercial considerations were often given onus over ethics – especially in psychiatry. His concerns however strengthened his resolve to want to engage with psychiatry, with a deep belief that the traditional ways of treating the mentally ill by locking them up in jail cells and overmedicating them, needed to be changed.
This brought Dr Manoj to do his MD at CMC Vellore, which he accounts as having the most professional and immersive learning experience in his lifetime – one which enabled him to practice medicine based on what was taught and without any undue influences. It is here as well that he was able to establish a broadened understanding of psychology, with experiences working with Palliative and Cancer patients and their mental health.
Even within these existing institutions that were caring for patients, Dr Manoj started seeing an uncomfortable pattern when it came to mental health treatment – it was inaccessible, inefficient, inhumane in practice and costly. This was especially apparent to Dr Manoj when it came to the lowest strata of society, where the severely mentally ill from the poorest of families in India have little to no care at all. A turning point in Dr Manoj’s life came when his mother passed away from cancer, bringing a realization that even though she received the best possible medical care, she was not taken care of psychosocially. These experiences and the uncompromising belief in social justice, led Dr Manoj to the start of a lifelong commitment to find a solution to help those completely forgotten in an already inefficient system, get access to quality and comprehensive mental health care when needed