MENTAL healthcare is the legal right of every Indian under the law. But the state of mental health infrastructure in India is inadequate.
According to the 2016 National Mental Health Survey by the National Institute of Mental Health & Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), India has hardly one psychiatrist per 100,000 people, which is extremely low given that mental illness constitutes nearly one-sixth of all health-related disorders in the country. This has been mainly due to a lack of resources and expertise in the field. It is also a fact that for decades, mental health has not been a priority and, compounded by low literacy, traditional and religious beliefs, awareness about it is also poor. Mental health specialists are mainly concentrated in India’s southern states and urban centres. The ‘treatment gap’ is large, especially in rural areas. And the Covid-19 pandemic has only added to the problem.
The stigma attached to mental illness is one of the main reasons behind those with issues reluctant to seek help – especially among disadvantaged groups. The cost of treatment is another factor and to help marginalised communities, NGOs have stepped in as providers of mental healthcare. Here are 10 nonprofits that are reaching out to underserved persons with mental disorders.
Established in 2016 in Jaipur, Rajasthan, Mindroot Foundation combats illness caused by mental conditions and substance abuse by spreading awareness in the society with the main goal of ending stigma. The organization believes that people facing mental health disorders should be comfortable discussing their problems without being judged by people around them.
Mindroot organises seminars, workshops and events at regular intervals to educate people about the importance of mental well-being. Focus groups including school students, villagers, professionals in banks, etc. are given the necessary training to improve quality of mental health and life. It also has a platform for people suffering from mental disorders to share their stories and offers effective strategies to deal with problems.
This Telangana-based nonprofit has a grassroots approach to eliminate stigma attached to mental health disorders by providing educational, medical, and moral support for patients, especially in rural areas.
Delivering mental health education to youth is an important programme of Minds Foundation as it covers topics such as autism, OCD, depression, anxiety, self-image, suicide, cyber-bullying, substance and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, and internet addiction. They also run health education classes for teachers and parents.
The Minds Foundation has a large network of social workers who organise camps in rural areas where people with mental health issues are provided free treatment.
Started in 2016, LonePack is a community movement led by a group of young engineering students to create awareness and combat mental health issues among Indian youth. The NGO’s mission is to shatter the stigma around it and start an open dialogue about mental disorders in a safe and inclusive environment.
The NGO organises campaigns, events and workshops in schools, colleges and corporates to raise awareness on the importance of mental wellness. In the past two years, it had an outreach of over 40,000 people across the country. It’s programme, LonePack Buddy, offers anonymous peer-to-peer support system where people can safely open-up about their mental issues. LonePack’s motto is to make mental health accessible to all.
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 ensure that homeless people with mental 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.
Seva is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘selfless service’ and this nonprofit is determined to get as many volunteers as possible to do just that. Aarogya Seva is dedicated to providing quality healthcare services to various segments of society through micro-volunteering.
The NGO provides a platform for all sectors of the healthcare industry – including pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, private practitioners, and healthcare service providers of all specialities – to serve patients in marginalised communities across the country. Aarogya Seva has reached over 100,000 beneficiaries so far and hopes to touch one million lives in the next two years with its army of 25,000 volunteers.
Its ‘Mental Health Initiative’ is a holistic approach promoting awareness about mental-related issues and it also provides medical support and believes in stamping out stigma and ending discrimination of people with mental illness.
SEARCH is a 34-year-old non-profit organisation working across 150 rural and tribal villages helping vulnerable, semi-tribal and deprived communities in the Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra.
Gadchiroli has just one mental health professional for every 120,170 people in the district. Looking at the acute need for intervention in the area, the nonprofit embarked on a journey to deliver state-of-the-art psychiatric care to vulnerable rural and tribal communities of the district in 2016. Its clinic in the district provides diagnosis and treatment, counselling services and even telephone consultations and follow-up.
The organisation’s vision is to achieve ‘Aarogya Swaraj’, empowering individuals and communities to take charge of their own health and help them achieve freedom from disease and dependence.
Started in 2000, Jan Sahas – meaning People’s Courage – was initially focused on awareness and community empowerment to end manual scavenging. Over the years they broadened the scope to fight forced labour, gender, caste and sexual violence and improve mental needs of those in need of help.
Jan Sahas has an in-house counselling unit with an aim to foster resilience among the communities it works with and ensures that their access to care at the grassroots level is adequate. Under this initiative, over 7,000 women and children have received direct counselling services. The organisation has over 400 ‘Barefoot counsellors’ (mental health caregivers) trained at providing counselling support at community level. Jan Sahas works in 68 districts, directly in 48 districts and indirectly in 20 additional districts of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi NCR and Bihar.
The Delhi-based nonprofit collaborates with experts, persons with live experiences, like-minded individuals and organisations across the world to deliver best-in-class knowledge on mental health in India.
They primarily work to raise awareness through a focus on our well-researched and tailored content reaching various communities. Their aim is to provide patients, caregivers and others with well-researched content that will help them make informed decisions on how to deal with mental health issues.
The NGO working in the field has been providing its services since 2002 through its charitable polyclinic in Makanpur village, Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh. It provides affordable and easily accessible healthcare to the families of migrant workers and daily wage earners in the area.
Besides mental health services, the polyclinic offers primary healthcare services too. It has a physician, paediatrician, gynaecologist, ENT specialists, dentist and a clinical laboratory, to help the community with timely medical needs and ensure proper medical care during emergencies. Its counsellors played an important role during the Covid-19 pandemic to address the health needs of children.
Founded in 1996, Ashadeep works in the North-Eastern states of India with a mission to help people with mental disorders through rehabilitation support. For individuals with intellectual disabilities, Ashadeep focuses on training them in daily living activities, functional academics, vocational training, sports and music along with conventional academics.
The organisation also runs two rehabilitation homes for homeless persons with mental illness (Navachetana & Udayan), More than 650 homeless mentally ill persons have been housed and treated in rehabilitation homes, of which 550 have been reintegrated with their families.
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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.