Mental illness requires careful treatment and much patience and persistence. No one person follows the same path to recovery, indeed recovery itself means something different to every client.

Standard models of care do not accommodate this, often relying heavily upon medication in order to reduce symptoms... and then leaving treatment at that.

How The Banyan helps

The Banyan has developed a unique and ground breaking model of care that combines careful and accurate medication with extensive, individualised therapy, activity, vocational training and eventual employment: a socio-medical model.

The model is present in the services provided in Adaikalam (the transit care facility), the Community Mental Health Project (CMHP) and the Community Living Project. It has also been replicated by other NGOs across the country and provides a template for the existing state care both institutional and community based.

Access to care in the community

The Community Mental Health Projects (CMHP) offers three different types of care in the rural setting of Kovalam village and the urban setting of Chennai.

  • Out patient services - two locations in Chennai and a health care centre in Kovalam provide psychiatric medication and counselling services to persons with mental illness. Care in this instance is accessed for a variety of reasons ranging from familial discord through to personal mental illness and continual care for ex-residents of The Banyan.
  • Disability Allowance - families that have a member that suffers from mental illness have a certain amount of pressure placed upon their limited resources. Financial aid in the form of this allowance decreases some of this burden and meetings of those that receive the benefit increase levels of support and sharing of experience for those affected.
  • Awareness programs - some of those with mental illness are afraid to access care for fear of the stigma and discrimination they may face as a result. Others resist treatment because they are simply unaware of its benefits. Campaigns, street theatre and leaflet drops all contribute to an increase in awareness and incidence of accessing care.

Effective residential care at Adaikalam

Adaikalam, the transit-care centre places care at the heart of all its activities.

In the first instance, rescued women are provided with primary care: a bath, clothes, nourishment and shelter. Much of the care at this level is provided by donations in kind from The Banyan's supporters in the form of saris and salwars that find their way to those that have lost everything. The next step is to establish the psychiatric medication and psychological therapies that the individual needs in order to begin to cope and come to terms with their illness.

The final, and possibly most unique and important of the care mechanisms of Adaikalam, is the culture of acceptance and positivity that is created by the staff, health care workers and the clients themselves. This positive peer culture allows the residents to explore their illness in a safe and nurturing environment with the support of everyone around them; they motivate one another, are creative together, care for one another and learn how to increase their overall level of role performance and interpersonal skills through experience of others. The individuality of each resident is carefully encouraged and preserved as it is only from this position of understanding that she can enter into rehabilitation.


At The Banyan, residents do not stop being part of the family when they return home. The Banyan realises that there needs to be some overlap between the care provided in situ and that available at home to support the client and their family. To this end The Banyan maintains contact with residents once they have returned home, providing moral support as well as posting medication to those unable to access treatment in their area. This is all to sustain the rehabilitation process in its infancy stages whilst the client settles into a routine at home.

Long-term care for those that cannot return to their families - Community Living

The aim of all of The Banyan's therapeutic interventions is eventual rehabilitation to communities and families across the country. For some this is not possible for a variety of reasons: perhaps their families cannot be found or are unable or unwilling to accept the woman, in some instances constant care is required that cannot be provided in the family. Whatever the reason, it is essential that a caring solution is found for these individuals to ensure that they do not simply end up back on the streets.

The Community Living Project is such a solution. Here 70 ex-residents of Adaikalam live and work together in a purpose built centre in the village of Kovalam. The atmosphere of this project is peaceful, caring and accepting: each resident is encouraged to express herself as she wants but also to support others. This non-institutional style of care is a proven model for the continual, cost-effective treatment of long-stay clients.