Chennai, Feb 7: The Banyan, a Chennai-based NGO that focuses on mental healthcare, has initiated a programme named ‘Home Again’, which aims to integrate women with mental health issues back into society.
These women have been shunned from their houses, and the NGO’s attempts to contact their families have been in vain; their families are either untraceable or do not want them.
“The idea came about,” says Mrinalini Ravi, a Junior Research Associate at the NGO, “when we asked these women, whose mental health seemed to be getting no better, whether they wanted to stay at the institution or try to move back into society. Most women wanted the latter.”
These women then formed affinity groups. The Banyan provided them with homes, where four to five women live as ‘family’. Three mental health professionals were put in charge of them; a programme manager, a case manager and a nurse. Fifteen women from the community also volunteered to help out as personal assistants.
These assistants are in charge of things like timely medication, upkeep of appointments with psychiatrists, and ensuring the availability of basic amenities like water, gas etc.
“We saw the mental health of these women gradually improve,” says Mrinalini. “The curiosity of the neighbourhood women peaked, and they eventually came to get to know these women.”
The neighbourhood became more accepting of these women. The women are ecstatic about their new-found freedom, and some have even taken up jobs in nearby homes and shops. Others help raise farm animals, babysit for other families or just remain idle.
Researchers of The Banyan Academy of Leadership in Mental Health (BALM) found that social acceptance resulted in significant improvement of mental health of women.
The project is funded by The Hans Foundation and Grand Challenges of Canada, a non-profit organization that funds many NGOs around the world.