In The News
APRIL 15, 2019
Chennai Royal Riders Motorcycle Club rides for mental health awareness
It’s 8 am on a warm, weekend morning and a gentle breeze carries scents from the sea. The last thing you expect to hear, on OMR, is the roar of 44 Royal Enfield engines revving up for a ride, curiously accompanied by a large yellow bus. But it’s not just a joyride for the jovial lot from the Chennai Royal Riders Motorcycle Club. They’re followed by a ‘BALM’ bus (The Banyan Academy of Leadership in Mental Health), with 20 special invitees from the home for vulnerable individuals with mental illness.
MARCH 28, 2019
Franchise is the voice that people with mental illness need
Chennai: All citizens of India have the right to vote, although the Representation of the People Act, 1950, disqualifies a person who is “of unsound mind” and “stands so declared by a competent court”.
The archaic law holds no scientific value today. Mental health problems can affect anyone across economic classes, gender and backgrounds. The estimated prevalence of mental illness is 10% of the population and among this 1%-3% of them have severe psychotic conditions such as bi-polar disorder or schizophrenia. But not all of them are admitted to hospitals.
JANUARY 9, 2019
These homes are helping women with mental illness merge into society
Twenty five years after it began, The Banyan, a Chennai-based mental healthcare NGO, realised that it was home to a group of mentally ill women, doomed to long-term care and incarceration in an institution. Their families were not traceable, or if traced, did not want them.
In a bold move, young entrepreneurs from the Banyan Academy for Leadership in Mental Health (BALM), led by Dr Vandana Gopikumar asked these women what they preferred—did they prefer to stay in The Banyan’s long stay facility or would they like to try moving back into society with help from the organisation?
AUGUST 13, 2018
The art of acceptance: The Banyan founders on its silver anniversary
When you ask the founders of The Banyan, Vandana Gopikumar and Vaishnavi Jayakumar, about their experience in the past 25 years, they tell you the story of a woman — let’s call her Kajal.
“When we found Kajal, she was six years old. Her mother had bipolar disorder, and was homeless, so they would sleep outside Ethiraj College (in Chennai). It seemed as though the police had hit her mother many times for squatting,” says 47-year old Vandana. Vandana and Vaishnavi rescued her in 1995, and brought her into their home.
AUGUST 6, 2018
Rehabilitation services should be individual-centric: NGOs, activists
Dr Vandana Gopikumar, co-founder of The Banyan, a Chennai-based NGO working with homeless persons with mental health issues, says that apart from mapping skills of the person, access to all systems that the person interacts with has to be enhanced.“Their access to support networks — including the whole gamut of family, health and social system — has to be improved. Besides, they should be facilitated with disability allowance and employment to earn livelihood.”
JULY 23, 2018
Compassion essential to handle mental illness
The Banyan, an NGO working in the area of mental health, celebrated its 25th anniversary on Saturday, along with its partners, supporters and well-wishers.At the event, Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan said though the State government had formulated schemes in handling people with mental illnesses, working with compassion towards those affected gave more results to the efforts.
JULY 21, 2018
Government-NGO partnership key to better odds for mentally ill persons: Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan
Partnerships between governments and NGOs were the key to better the odds for persons living with mental illness, said Tamil Nadu Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan at Chennai on Saturday. The health secretary was speaking at an event marking the 25th anniversary of The Banyan, a Chennai-based NGO working on issues related to mental health and homelessness.
JULY 21, 2018
The Banyan, NGO working for mentally ill celebrates its 25th anniversary
On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of The Banyan, an NGO that works with mentally ill and homeless women, three women share their success stories of rehabilitation and giving back to the organisation
JULY 21, 2018
Book lays bare tales of triumph over mental illness
“To us, this is very personal, because over the past 25 years, we’ve seen in the people we have served, not just suffering, poverty and homelessness, but also a sense of absolute grit and resilience to play many other roles – of caring, nurturing mothers, school teachers, social workers and management consultants,” says Vandana. “You hardly hear stories of mental illness being normalized or of this stereotype being challenged,” she adds.
JULY 8, 2018
35 years later, woman reunites with her mom
The Banyan resident has been reunited with her mother after 35 years, and the events that led to their meeting are “nothing less than a miracle,” said Dr Shanta, The Banyan’s consultant gynecologist and the person who made the reunion happen.
JULY 8, 2018
Vandana Gopakumar and Vaishnavi Jayakumar: Women who built a home for the mentally challenged
In this extract from Like A Girl, Aparna Jain tells the story of two girls, who broke rules to work with people with mental health issues and built ‘The Banyan’. There are 56 such stories in this new illustrated children’s book.
JUNE 14, 2018
Changemaker Approaches to Mental Health
The Banyan’s efforts to decentralize care and include community members and local institutions include recruiting and training peer service providers, activating community level centers as hubs for social care, and utilizing active public places such as cafes, and tourism trails to challenge existing narratives of mental illness.
JUNE 3, 2018
‘Snehakoodu’ becomes hope for inmates of mental hospital
A 52 year old woman, and a 32 year old woman were rehabilitated to long-term housing through the Snehakoodu program in Kerala. The women have been living the Thrissur Mental Health Centre for a number of years.
MAY 20, 2018
Woman from Kolar reunited with family after nine years
“Despite running away from home, Vijaya’s desperation to return home, to her children, even after all these years was evident to the social workers. “When a few of us from Banyan visited her on Friday, we realised how desperate she was. After speaking to her, we immediately got in touch with police personnel in KGF, Kolar, who went to her house and helped us trace the family,” he said.
APRIL 11, 2018
Free breast alteration surgery in India’s Tamil Nadu: Is there a case for public funding?
An op-ed written by our co-founder, Vandana Gopikumar & head of the BALM-Sundram Fasteners Centre for Research and Social Action in Mental Health, Lakshmi Narasimhan
“Breast alteration surgery may make many women feel more in tune with the look they want for themselves, and by all means the option to make such choices should not remain in the realm of the rich. However, in a society largely shaped by a patriarchal order, where women often lack agency, promoting such an initiative as a means of improving self esteem may end up perpetuating sexist notions of the ideal female body.”
MARCH 11, 2018
These Kerala rehabilitation homes help people with mental illness integrate into society
Named ‘Snehakkoodu’ (home of love), the rehabilitation homes have been set up by the state department of health’s Arogya Keralam project in association with The Banyan, a mental health NGO based in Chennai, and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).
MARCH 12, 2018
A ‘home’ for those who cannot go home
On Monday, the pilot project titled ‘Home Again’ will go to the next level, when the Kerala government ties up with The Banyan for the launch of the ‘Snehakkoodu’ programme under the Health department across the three major mental health institutions in the State.
JANUARY 28, 2018
How an NGO is paving new ground in mental healthcare
Vandana Gopikumar, who along with Vaishnavi Jayakumar founded The Banyan and The Banyan Academy of Leadership in Mental Health, will receive the Penn Nursing Renfield Foundation Award for Global Women’s Health, on March 21, 2018. The award, which carries a $100,000 cash prize, is awarded for her work in helping women with mental health problems in India.
JANUARY 2, 2018
Lessons for a leader in health to be ahead of curve
Only one in 10 people in India has access to evidence-based mental health services; we experience an 83% treatment gap. It is now widely accepted that the interaction between deprivation and mental disorders is bi-directional. The government should adopt an eight point agenda that focuses on the person with mental illness and his/her family.
OCTOBER 24, 2017
West Bengal woman meets family after 8 years
In 2014, when volunteers of Banyan, an NGO, rescued Khatoon from the Muttukadu bus stand, she had been sitting on the roadside, eating scraps of food leftovers.She was taken to the Banyan’s centre in Kovalam, where doctors declared she was mentally ill, and provided counselling. Recently , during a spell of lucidity, she told a counsellor that her name was Mehasoosa Khatoon and vaguely remembered her address as Paschim Hemkumari village.
OCTOBER 10, 2017
155 patients still stuck at IMH as TS lacks rehab options for mentally ill persons
Dr KV Kishore, director of The Banyan, a Chennai-based NGO working with homeless persons with mental health issues, said lack of rehab facilities in the community made reintegration with families or society a challenge. There was a need for occupational therapists so recovered people can lead productive life. “Besides, human resources such as social workers should be made available for rehabilitation and to integrate recovered people with families,” he said.
OCTOBER 10, 2017
Knitting a safety net
Today, 800,000 persons die by suicide globally and over 1,33,000 in India every year. Among 15-29 year olds, it’s the second leading cause of death. Reasons attributed range from family problems and ill health to mental illness, debt, unemployment, failure in exams and relationships.