The Vandrevala Foundation’s India Mental Health Initiative:
Healing Minds. Saving Lives.

The Vandrevala Foundation launched its ‘Mental Health – India’ initiative in 2009. This major initiative focuses on the following three areas:

Awareness

Raising awareness that:

  1. Mental health problems and illnesses are as important as any physical health challenges.
  2. Anyone – young, old, rich, poor, male, female, educated, illiterate – can be presented with mental health challenges.
  3. With proper treatment to cure or control their condition, people experiencing mental health issues can be normal, productive members of society.
  4. Since mental health is no different from physical health and mental problems and illnesses are treatable, all people suffering from a mental illness should be treated with dignity due to any human being.

Access

Access to resources for:

  1. Diagnosis and treatment.
  2. Knowledge about mental health issues, symptoms and treatments.
  3. Support groups.

Advocacy

Working with government, businesses, educational institutions, civil society and media to:

  1. Build support for applying necessary solutions to mental health challenges in India.
  2. Bring to bear best practices to address mental health issues.
  3. Raise awareness and fight stigma.
  4. Create partnerships through which the impact of efforts can be multiplied.

In pursuit of the above three areas, the Foundation has undertaken the following activities. These are all ongoing activities and not one-off campaigns. We believe that persistent, long-term efforts will have a more significant impact than short bursts of activity.

Mental Health Helpline

The Foundation established a mental health helpline in Mumbai, India, in August 2009. The Helpline is staffed by trained clinical psychologists and psychiatrists who form the first line of contact for callers. Experienced psychiatrists form a second line of contact.

The Helpline operates 24/7 and is run as a professional unit with counsellors being paid market rates. This is unusual as most other helplines in the country are staffed by unpaid volunteers who have other demands on their time. The counsellors document all calls on software that helps them retrieve previous call history quickly and allows for demographic studies.

The Helpline has put in place arrangements with public services such as the police, ambulance services and hospitals. The Helpline has also tied up with professional bodies. In October 2011, the Foundation created a new hub for the helpline in Delhi, India. This was with help from Emmanuel Hospital Association, St Stephen’s hospital and Mar Thoma Church. Later in Aug 2013 another hub at Surat (Gujarat) was added. In 2015 yet another hub was added in Ghandhi Nagar( Gujarat). This is with help of Gujarat Police (Suraksha Setu) and few philanthropists

In just over four years, the Helpline has helped approximately 62,000 people. This number includes the entire spectrum – from people seeking information, to people about to do themselves serious harm and who have been dissuaded by the counsellors.

The Helpline Unique All India Number is 1860-266-2345 / 1800-233-3330

Email ID is help@vandrevalafoundation.com

Awareness Campaigns

The Foundation has collaborated with schools and colleges to raise awareness and remove stigma. In 2011, when the city of Mumbai suffered a spate of student suicides, the Foundation Helpline was declared by the Mumbai Municipal Corporation as the official helpline that students could call.

Improvement of Mental Health Services in India

The Foundation has:

  • submitted to the Government of Maharashtra a plan to improve services provided in mental health institutions within the state;
  • entered into an agreement with the Director General of Shipping to be the official mental health helpline for Indian seamen around the globe and their families;
  • brought together a number of representatives of other NGOs working in the area of mental health to compare notes and share best practices;
  • arranged seminars involving academics, government officials and psychiatric professionals to discuss key issues in mental health in India; and
  • established a relationship with the Mental Health Commission of Canada to learn from the Canadian experience.