This article comes from Guidepoints News from NADA Spring 2021 Issue. Sign-up to receive Guidepoints in your inbox quartlery. The Guidepoints newsletter is the only publication devoted to the sharing and dissemination of our NADA work on an international scale. Become a member to opt-in for a print copy. Check-out past issues.

We have long admired the work of Nada India as a shining example of what NADA’s outreach is all about. Without question, Suneel and Pallavi Vatsyayan are the brilliant force and tireless energy making the great good of establishing the NADA protocol in India possible.NonCommunicable Diseases (NCDs) are the endemic challenge of modern bio-medicine and behavioral and mental healthcare. Suneel and Pallavi get it. Pan-diagnostic and trans-symptomatic efficacy and adaptability are hallmarks of the NADA protocol and a valuable tool in addressing NCDs. They get that too.I am confident that NADA and Nada India will continue a rich intellectual, technical and collegial relationship.
~ Ken “Khensu†Carter, NADA president:

Suneel Vatsyayan

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Peer counselor Mincy Lakhani teaches acupressure with beads to caregivers working with the homeless population in Delhi.

Year 2020 is important for Nada India for two reasons. First, this was the year Nada India completed 20 years of its existence. It was Dr. Michael O. Smith who introduced me to the word nada, a Spanish word meaning nothing. In Hindi, nada means primordial sound. During his numerous visits to India, we discussed how a patient is smarter than a therapist, and a virus is smarter than the vaccine, and students are smarter than the teacher – they all change faster than our interventions. This causes a gap and increases the service barriers. Thus, the policy and program focus needs to shift from disease control and management to primordial prevention and wellbeing. And so, Dr. Smith invited me to set up Nada India Foundation to promote barrier-free drug rehabilitation services and community wellness for behavioral health.

Secondly, 2020 was the year of the Covid-19 pandemic that helped all of us realize nothingness in close quarters. The Nada India team was conducting My Community and I workshops at Delhi University colleges when we asked students to write about their “River of Life†because health is not an episode but a series of episodes.

All episodes of life leave us with a sense of “zilch†meaning “the beginning.†Covid-19 gave us an opportunity to listen and be connected within us – it is another episode of wellbeing obliged to health in my River of Life. It was a coincidence that the day after we finished our workshop on Emotional-CPR in Delhi, a nationwide lockdown was announced and we all started working online.

As a professional social worker and life coach, I found that therapy is a complicated process. I realized that peer learning, Emotional CPR and the NADA protocol are as simple as offering a glass of water. This is all needed during the pandemic, and the Nada team connected with young people virtually and emotionally at Qi level.

Covid-19 and lockdown situations have worsened everyone’s lifestyle and habits, especially youth. Their lifestyle pattern has become more sedentary, compiled with increased intake of junk food and beverages. Nada India noticed the harmful ways in which Big Alcohol, Tobacco and Food companies exploited this pandemic situation to sell their products.

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Dr. Smith observes a NADA treatment

The availability and accessibility of healthcare at times of Covid-19 is also a major challenge for the people living with noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease. The National Youth Conclave 2020, organized by Nada India, underlined the growing scarcity of available social workers. Nada India has been running wellness campaigns since 2016 with the National Association of Professional Social Workers in India, and we have observed that their role is crucial in bridging the gap in the shortfall of the healthcare workforce and quality social work education.

Moreover, this gap can also be filled by training youth and young adults to be peer educators/supporters and caregivers. In 2016, on one of Dr. Smith’s trips to India, he wrote about the peer program. “Peer counselors are supposed to help their clients prevent and cope with a number of non-communicable diseases such as alcohol abuse, tobacco use, obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. This is one of biggest struggles for food integrity in our world. I am pleased this is part of NADA’s challenge and response.

“The trainees’ assignment was to interview five local families about their food habits. These interviews were clearly intended to start an on-going conversation and awareness about buying, cooking and eating. This subtle ongoing reality extends to alcohol, tobacco and other problems.

“First, Pallavi taught the primary teacher who is a young psychologist from another state in India. This teacher then teaches the many peer counselors in each of several villages, eventually actually watching their interviews of family leaders. The teacher often stays overnight in the villages to facilitate the learning, trusting, and changing process. One further assignment of the peer counselors is to identify and teach junior peer counselors. Thus, change is on-going and multi-generational. And, as is necessary for quality results, women are included at all levels and in all ways.

“People properly learn to learn and learn to teach the basic issues. Quite different than the technique of training a special cadre of young people who are made to feel elite and different from the local community. Here their connection with the village and their ability to work for a growing wisdom and change in their village. The peer counselors are also taught to place magnetic ear beads on community members and younger students. Basic to their role is helping young people handle the risks of substance abuse and other co-active difficult behavior.â€

We have featured one of our Nada Good Health Fellows and Youth Catalyst, Mincy Lakhmani, on the cover of our 2020 annual report. The gesture is a tribute to all the young people like her who have been the strength of our work. She rose to become a Peer Leader and Good Health Champion with us, and she now works in her native place in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, with the twin objectives of conserving nature and healing the living beings around her by reaching out to the needy ones. Her work represents the continued focus of Nada India Foundation in the new decade – “One Health One World.â€

Nada India gives thanks to Dr. Smith, Ruth, Dr. Ken, Jo Ann, Sara and many more for being part of our support system. Dr. Smith created communities of hope by inspiring and equipping women and children to be healthy in India.

Ear acupuncture in India has become synonymous with Dr. Smith. People whosoever met him earlier always looked forward to meet him again and again – whether senior officers of the Border Security Force, Beggar Home Delhi Government, National Institute of Social Defense, Delhi Psychiatric Society and hundreds of counselors, peer educators whose lives were touched by his holy presence and dynamic Qi. Poor children, adolescent girls and women of Chattarpur village expressed their gratitude for his generous support to their education and vocational programs. We continue to work with young people who were close to Dr. Smith’s heart.

I am confident that the youth-led Nada Young India Network is ready to bring up the stories of young health advocates across India and amplify the voices of people living with NCDs. The stories of young health advocates have already set the tone of the narrative by involving the young people in partnership with adults meaningfully at all levels with a whole society approach, “Good Health in All Policies.â€

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Suneel Vatsyayan

Suneel Is a Champion Decathlon Social Worker

Dr. Michael O. Smith
January 23, 2014

Our Indian partner has had a remarkable career. He has sought out challenges and met them so well that national recognition has often been the result. He was trained as a social worker and has consistently enlarged the definition of that field.

I met Suneel Vatsyayan in an addiction conference in Jakarta in 1998. He said he was a social worker in a police station. It was a very non-grandiose self-definition in an NGO meeting where grandiosity is the rule. He shared little about his daily job, and I rarely advocate acupuncture with uninterested people. But we were both day-to-day addiction counselors and got along well as new friends in a rather boring conference.

Two years later, I visited his program, Navjhoti, located in the top floors of a police station and small local jail. The program was a large residential modified therapeutic community managed directly by our new friend Suneel Vatsyayan. He had added Alcohol Anonymous, yoga, homeopathy, family meetings, and other components not included in U.S. therapeutic communities.

Who has heard of a social worker actually running a large component within a police station? Certainly police work needs the wisdom of social work in its interactions with people and problems. However, this partnership is rarely even partially achieved. But Navjhoti included a large number of educational and preventive services in the world’s largest ghetto – the Yamuna Pushta area nearby. There were even school sessions several times a day to accommodate the “work†hours of pickpockets and sex workers, for example.

In the patriarchal culture of India, respect of women’s leadership is quite unusual. In recent years, Suneel and his wife, Pallavi, have run a series of girls’ empowerment programs. In one such program, the girls offer a radio club with views on certain topics. Most of these social work approaches began to be used before 2000 when we introduced acupuncture.

After that time, many attempts were made to teach NADA in many medical and non-medical groups and settings. NADA provides a social work advantage to groups of people rather than being a form of medical care. I have tried to describe only some of the larger on-going projects to illustrate Suneel’s gift of social organization which enhances our work.