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.
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.
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.