Vandana Gopikumar, PhD
Co-Founder, Managing Trustee
Since she co-founded The Banyan in 1993, Vandana Gopikumar has been pivotal in creating approaches to care & protocols, that previously were non-existent, for homeless individuals with mental health issues.
Vandana was herself a member of the first Mental Health Policy Group constituted by the Government of India in 2012, and was an advisor to the Supreme Court Appointed Special Commissioner on Homelessness.
Vandana is also involved in practice-based research, aiming to make research accessible, such that information shared is engaging and easy to act on, from individual, collective, policy or programme perspectives.
In particular, she conducted an inquiry into the homelessness-mental ill health- poverty nexus in India as well as an exploration into strategies and approaches to care that can tackle the same.
Vandana now mentors a second line that leads both The Banyan and BALM, and operates on the board level across both organisations, mostly offering strategic direction and clinical inputs. She is deeply interested in mentoring peer advocacy movements, particularly from a strata of society (lower income groups and socially deprived) that is seldom represented in global policy discourses.
Her primary and most fulfilling role is that of a clinician or social work practitioner. This engagement helps her reflect on good practice, methods and skills that contribute to the process of personal recovery, and enhanced quality of life.
Vandana is of the firm belief that every individual by virtue of existing, is a thinking, feeling person and thus should be treated as one, even if it implies that the current social order and conservative understanding, be challenged.
She strongly believes that the global dialogue on mental health, wellbeing and human rights has to actively seek out the wisdom of experiential experts across varied settings and contexts, and personally, has learnt almost all her useful lessons from the individuals that she serves.
When she isn't out in the field 'doing', which she thinks is most important in the larger scheme of things, she spends her time with her dogs, watching movies, reflecting, writing opinion pieces and her book which explores the relationship between structural violence, gender, distress and mental health.