On the 30th November, The Banyan had a visit from Dr Shekar Saxena, Director, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse of the World Health Organisation. Dr Saxena came to present Vandana Gopikumar, Co-Founder of The Banyan, with an award from the Swiss Foundation on Health in collaboration with the World Health Organisation for “Outstanding achievement in the field of mental health care”.
This award is given to a person whose efforts have led to a significant improvement of the provision of health care for people with mental illness.
After seeing destitute women in the streets of Chennai, Vandana, together with her close friend Vaishnavi Jayakumar wanted to help these women and so the seeds of The Banyan were sown. In 1993, The Banyan started off as a shelter and transit home for homeless women with mental illness who had wandered from their homes across the country and ended up on the streets of Chennai.
Vandana and Vaishnavi believed that the women needed to receive timely treatment and to be rehabilitated in mainstream society. Since that time, The Banyan has rescued and rehabilitated over 900 women. But more than this, The Banyan is active in the community, both in rural and urban areas, helping to educate, reduce the stigma of and increase awareness of mental illness.
In 2007, The Banyan Academy of Leadership in Mental Health (BALM), a strategic initiative of The Banyan, was established as a response to The Banyan’s own experiences in the mental health and development sector. In 2013, BALM will offer a Tata Institute of Social Sciences – BALM MA in Social Work and Mental Health.
During his visit, Dr Saxena visited Adaikalam, the transit care centre at Moggapair, the Rural Mental Health Programme in Kovalam and the shelter for the homeless at Dooming Kuppam, which recently came under the umbrella of the Kind People Happy City initiative.
If you would like to help to continue the invaluable work done by The Banyan, please follow the links below:
Contact Swapna for more info: +91 9840135913. firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Archanaa for more info: +91-9840523235. email@example.com