ACCORDING to the National Mental Health Survey (NMHS), 2015-16, around 150 million Indians live with mental health issues, yet 83% of them do not have access to necessary care. The mentally challenged are often prevented from participating fully in society because of social barriers, stigma and discrimination and, in some cases, even abandoned by their families.
While there are several government institutions for the mentally challenged, the supply gap is still large, which several non-profits across India are working to bridge. Volunteering with organisations that care for mentally challenged individuals, or donating to them periodically can positively impact the life of people with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities.
Here are 10 NGOs striving to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness, improve their economic status and create social acceptance for the intellectually disadvantaged.
1) The Banyan
Based in Chennai, The Banyan provides care for the homeless and poor individuals with mental health issues in the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Maharashtra. The services include hospital-based care, housing in rural and urban neighbourhoods and community and clinic-based mental health solutions.
The Banyan focuses on transformative social justice and their efforts to ensure that homeless people with mental health conditions make journeys back to families, re-enter work, reclaim social relationships and pursue lives of their choosing. Its programmes include sponsoring doctors and psychiatrists for in-house patients. The Banyan operates rural as well as urban clinics, rescuing and serving mentally challenged patients.
Started in 1995, ARVI Trust is a nodal agency that works to empower persons with disabilities through various development programmes. Its objective is the upliftment of indigenous, downtrodden, vulnerable, weaker sections (SC/ST/OBC & minorities) and rural communities. ARVI has been on a mission to improve the lives of differently-abled persons by promoting their rights and rehabilitation.
The Trust works in partnership with government bodies, NGOs and individuals. It strives towards creating a positive, lasting change in the lives of children, families and communities in abject poverty. ARVI lends a helping hand irrespective of religion, caste, creed, race, ethnicity or gender. It has a wide network spanning 10 locations in India.
Since 1997, Udayam Charitable Trust (UCT) has been operating a special school and rehabilitation centre for children with special needs. in Dindigul, Tamil Nadu. The aim is to make children with different abilities self-reliant to carry out their daily chores and gain a rightful place in the world.
UCT also organises short training programmes for community leaders of indigenous people and tribals. These programmes aim to create awareness about their legal rights. Tribal women are supported in income generation activities like animal rearing, broom making, honey collection, etc. They are also encouraged to collect medicinal plants and sell them in the markets nearby.
Starting with the objective of providing care to displaced, lost or abandoned children in riots, the Delhi Council for Child Welfare (DCCW) now provides services to the underprivileged children of the city and nearby areas. Its efforts are focused on improving their health, and economic and social well being.
DCCW’s Bal Chetna daycare programme is targeted at the care and rehabilitation of special needs children belonging to underprivileged families in Delhi. The objective of the programme is to make each child as self-reliant, competent, and communicative as possible within his/her constraints, and to include the families in providing holistic care to the children.
The most well-known programme of DCCW is Palna, a home for abandoned, homeless and destitute children. At Palna, infants who arrive in a precarious state of health get the best possible medical care. Some of the children are of special needs. Palna’s mission is to give every child the childhood they deserve.
Established in 2010, Neptune Foundation has been contributing to the economic development of vulnerable people in local communities and society at large.
The Foundation identifies the mentally ill destitute wandering on the streets, and adopts them and arranges for their treatment. Once they are cured and are able to regain their memory, Neptune traces their families and reunites them. They also pay for the lifelong medication cost of those reunited individuals who are unable to afford medication.
The persons with mental health issues are also imparted vocational training till their family is traced and they are reunited. Vocational training acts as a mental stimulant and helps them to continue doing work even after they return home.
Home to abandoned children with intellectual disabilities in Chennai, the trust was founded in 2002 to create awareness and offer medical facilities for the marginalised and much-neglected section of society. Their vision is to ensure that mentally challenged children remain safe and enjoy equal opportunities. With an emphasis on ability rather than disability, their core values include transparency, equality, dignity and inclusion.
The Trust provides care and protection to mentally challenged abandoned children and has strived for their integration in society. The organisation has provided food, medical care, clothing, physiotherapy, special education and speech therapy to 106 children and reunited 77 abandoned mentally challenged children with their parents.
The 75-year-old non-profit Jai Vakeel Foundation and Research Centre (JVF) is the largest and oldest non-profit working with persons with intellectual disabilities. What started from a small house to educate and provide therapy to a few children has grown into a two-acre campus in Sewri, Mumbai with two rural branches in Pune and Nashik districts. JVF caters to over 3,000 individuals annually, across age groups and varying levels of intellectual and developmental disabilities such as autism, epilepsy, cerebral palsy and visual or hearing impairment.
With an aim to integrate the mentally challenged into mainstream society, JVF provides holistic service under four broad categories of healthcare, education, skill development and support services.
Founded by Dr Jitender Aggarwal, this trust works towards the empowerment of people with disability through early intervention, inclusive education, skill development and placement. What began with a batch of eight blind students in Delhi is now spread across 23 centres across India.
To date, Sarthak has trained and placed more than 55,000 persons with disabilities. Sarthak believes that inclusive education will make way for an inclusive society and has successfully rehabilitated children with disabilities in mainstream schools by sensitising various stakeholders and offering remedial classes.
Established in 1996 to render social service for the intellectually challenged with a residential facility, it started with just two students and now caters to 225 students with 22 teachers at Hyderabad.
Students are taught day-to-day skills, basic communication, reading, writing and arithmetic skills, orientation and mobility, and vocational skills. Some of them have multiple disabilities such as blindness, epilepsy and cerebral palsy. Apart from the special education services, vocational training is also provided for adult intellectually challenged students.
A centre of excellence for knowledge-based services in the field of mental retardation, this the nonprofit has a child guidance clinic, special school, vocational training centre, daycare centre, sheltered workshop and research centre. The organisation also aims to establish services to enhance the lives of mentally challenged persons from low-income families.
Over the years, with the committed efforts of volunteers, staff, parents and society, they have built a robust and purposeful organisation to improve the well being of the mentally challenged. Their endeavour is to create an atmosphere of harmony, learning and constructive participation.
An intellectual disability must not exclude someone from the opportunity to live an independent and meaningful life. Providing care and protecting their human rights must be treated as a collective endeavour of society.
(This article was updated in May 2022)
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Samar is a Marketing Communications specialist and freelance writer. She has a master’s in marketing and creativity from ESCP Business School. She is an avid traveler and likes to write about technology, travel, wildlife and sustainability.