Under the aegis of the World Health Organization, the Movement for Global Mental Health and an Indian Supreme Court ruling, biomedical psychiatric interventions have expanded in India augmenting biomedical hegemony in a place that is known for its variety of healing modalities. This is occurring despite the fact that studies by the WHO show a better outcome in India for people suffering schizophrenia and related diagnoses when compared to people in developed countries who have greater access to biomedical psychiatry. Practitioners of ayurvedic medicine in Kerala have been mounting a claim for a significant role in public mental health in the face of this growing hegemony.
This study examines efforts by ayurvedic practitioners to expand access to ayurvedic mental health services in Kerala, and profiles a rehabilitation center which combines biomedical and ayurvedic therapies and has been a key player in efforts to expand the use of Ayurveda for mental health. The paper argues for maintaining a pluralistic healing environment for treating mental illness rather than displacing other healing modalities in favor of a biomedical psychiatric approach.