Worldwide, issues related to mental health require urgent attention. In India, approximately 1% of the population (10 million people) have major mental illnesses. Another 5% to 10% of the population (50 to 100 million people) have minor mental illnesses. Human resources which include psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, psychiatric social workers and psychiatric nurses are extremely inadequate.
In rural areas, the situation is even more grim, with essential resources being much fewer. Women and poor people with mental illness face even greater marginalization than others. Everywhere, myths and stigma associated with mental illnesses come in the way of appropriate understanding and care.
Basic Needs India (BNI) Trust grew out of the belief that the rights of people who experience mental illnesses, especially those who are poor, must be addressed not only at an individual level, but also in the context of a wider world, and that however ill a person may presently be, he/she is capable of participating in their recovery. BNI engages people with mental illnesses and their carers in processes that are mutually enhancing. All people involved in care and rehabilitation work learn, grow and are strengthened together. BNI seeks to address both people’s mental health concerns and situations of poverty and exclusion, to ensure sustainable recovery.
The underlying conviction is that mental health issues must be seen not only in medical terms but just as importantly, as human rights issues.
BNI’s main role is that of creating a caring, accommodating and understanding environment to ensure the human rights of people with mental illnesses. Such an effort involves liaising with and including a host of people – people affected by mental illnesses, family members and other carers, community members, medical professionals, policy makers and government officials.
Basic Needs India was conceived of in 1999. Groundwork began in 2000 and the organisation was registered as a Trust in March, 2001.
Basic Needs India seeks to satisfy the essential needs of all people with mental illnesses in India and to ensure that their basic rights are respected and fulfilled.
The approach to care is one that includes people with mental illnesses in immediate and larger developmental processes, with the active participation of community members. BNI hopes to generate sensitivity and influence public opinion around mental health issues.
BNI hopes to share its ongoing learning with other individuals and organisations.
The basis of all work is listening to affected people and involving them right from the very beginning in planning how situations may be handled. People’s voices play a crucial role in a dialogue that shapes development processes.
The first step involves identifying community-based organisations (CBO’s) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who are willing to include the needs of people with mental illnesses in their ongoing developmental work. Basic Needs India works with such partner groups, facilitating appropriate orientation and capacity building processes with different stakeholder groups. As the program matures the stakeholder groups are actively involved in addressing the entitlements and rights issues with the public provider system as also with the community structures.
BNI works with partner organisations in parts of rural Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Jharkhand, Bihar Orissa and Maharashtra