About Us

150 million Indians are estimated to live with mental health issues, yet 83% remain out of the care they need. In this low resource scenario, socio-economic liabilities (gender, caste, class) render people with psychosocial disabilities homeless, with limited options of long-term institutionalisation or living on the streets. At The Banyan, we are working to substantively change this scenario.

Our Vision

“An inclusive and humane world that promotes capabilities, equity and justice.”

We offer comprehensive mental health services in a range of institutional and community settings for people with mental health issues living in homelessness and poverty. We work in the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Maharashtra with a population of 1 million servicing low-income households and homeless people through a range of approaches that include hospital-based care, housing in rural and urban neighbourhoods and community and clinic-based mental health solutions. Our focus is on transformative social justice. We work to ensure that people with mental health conditions living in homelessness make journeys back to families and communities of choice, re-enter work, reclaim social relationships and pursue lives of their choosing.

Our story

Tracing our journey towards building better mental health ecosystems

In 1993, Vandana Gopikumar and Vaishnavi Jayakumar, encountered a woman walking in the middle of traffic on a busy road in Chennai. She was homeless with a mental health issue and visibly distressed. In their attempts to find her a safe space, they discovered that there were no services that acknowledged the needs of the marginalised constituency of homeless women with mental illness. Several more such encounters over the next few months left the duo disillusioned and the idea was born that they should do something about the problem themselves. This led to the founding of The Banyan on August 27, 1993.

THE TIMELINE

Two decades ago, Chennai’s homeless women existed as an invisible minority.

1993

Adaikalam (Tamizh for safe refuge), the first home

Vandana and Vaishnavi rented a three-bedroom house, envisaged as a safe space for homeless women with mental illness in Chennai

1998

First Institutional Donor

Tata Trusts joins us as our first institutional donor

2002

Urban Mental Health Program

Partnership with Loyola College Dept. of Social Work to offer clinical and aftercare services for the community

2003

NIMHANS Review

A Positive review from NIMHANS that led to the closure of gaps and expansion of services

2004

DIAL 100

Partnered with the Chennai Police Dept. a helpline for homeless persons with mental illness was initiated

2005

Rural Mental Health Program

Following the 2004 Tsunami, a program that offers clinical and social care services in Kovalam

2006

Clustered Group Homes

A home-style facility was initiated for clients with long term care needs

2007

BALM

The Banyan Academy of Leadership in Mental Health sets up a facility with a focus on training

2009

Partnership with Puzhal Prison

Clinical services for people at Puzhal Prisons and capacity building on mental health for prison staff

2011

NALAM

300 individuals were trained on mental health across 12 panchayats across 3 districts in Tamil Nadu

2012

Open Shelter

In liaison with the Corp of Chennai and HCL Technologies an open shelter for homeless men with mental illness was opened

2012

Disability Advocacy

The Banyan obtained a license from the govt to issue disability certificates

2013

BALM – TISS Partnership

Initiation of 3 Masters programs (Clinical Psychology, Applied Psychology and Social Work Courses) in collaboration with Tata Institute of Social Sciences

2017

BALM – Sundram Fasteners Centre

In liaison with Sundram Fasteners Limited, a Center for Research and Social Action was launched

2017

Kerala Chapter Open

Inauguration of The Banyan’s Kerala Chapter

2019

Maharashtra Chapter Open

Inauguration of The Banyan’s Maharashtra Chapter
 
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