About us

MHI provides grants and strategic support to organizations and collectives working within communities to provide greater access to mental health services for all.

Theory of Change

By fostering an environment of accessible, affirmative, rights-based and user-centric mental healthcare, MHI seeks to visibilise narratives in mental health that centres structural determinants and foreground voices of historically marginalised communities.

MHI Stakeholder infographic
This is an infographic showing all the stakeholders of Mariwala Health Initiative. MHI is a circle in the center, surrounded by six circles representing six categories of stakeholders. The first one is service providers. This includes psychiatrists, psychologists, barefoot counselors, therapists, non-profits and psychiatric social workers. The second category of stakeholders is researchers including independent institutions, individuals, universities and colleges. The third category is named activists - Disability activists, mental health activists, livelihood activists, LGBTQIA+ activists and feminist activists come under this category. The fourth category of stakeholders is law and policy. This includes bureaucrats, Municipal Corporation, anganwadi workers, think tanks, non-profit law and policy makers, state and central government and local representatives. The fifth category of stakeholders is different communities that are vulnerable or marginalized. This consists of adolescents, youth, the elderly, Dalit, Adivasi and OBC communities, women, LGBTQIA+, the economically vulnerable, homeless people, rural communities, urban informal settlements, single parents, religious minorities and persons with disabilities. The sixth category of stakeholders includes users and survivors of psychiatric services, suicide survivors, current and potential users of mental health services and caregivers.

MHI partners with projects that together constitute a multi-pronged approach, through intervention programs as well as advocacy in the areas of law and policy.

We align with a rights-based, psychosocial approach that considers mental health concerns in the context of disability rights. We expand on the narrow medical understandings of mental health and illness and looks at these through a systemic lens. We understand oppressions based on caste, gender, religion, region, ability, and sexuality based oppression as major contributors to mental health distress. We encourage community-based interventions, and actively promote the deinstitutionalization of mental health services.

Our Goals

MHI works with marginalized communities: Graphic
This graphic shows a range of marginalized communities MHI aims to reach. There are many axes of marginalization, including Age, that is, adolescents and elderly. Persons with disabilities are foregrounded in our work. We hope to reach out to economically vulnerable people including households with low income, homeless persons and single parent households. In India, it is very important to actively reach out to marginalized castes and communities like Adivasi, Dalit, OBC and Rural communities and indigenous peoples. We also center work on gender by working with women and LGBTQIAHK+. Religious minorities are also communities that we would like to reach out to.

Our goals include reaching out to marginalized populations and communities, in order to alleviate their mental health concerns, as well as capacity building for individuals, organizations, communities, and institutions through training, building networks, and knowledge sharing.

Mission

To collaborate with a range of stakeholders in the area of mental health in India, in order to create wider awareness of essential concerns.

To support and enable quality services as well as ongoing research, and encourage innovative, culturally sensitive, and inclusive community-based interventions.

To work towards capacity building for individuals, organizations, communities and institutions through training, network building and knowledge sharing, and stimulate law and policy reforms.

Values

The following ethics and values guides MHI's work:

  • Accountability: Our framework of ethics takes into account the varying marginalizations of communities we work with. The foundation of our work is accountability. We are accountable to the responsibilities we take up and the communities we serve.
  • Affirmation: We continuously seek to affirm our commitment towards foregrounding the voices of the historically oppressed.
  • Collaboration: We work with all internal and external stakeholders on a non-hierarchical, equal footing leveraging the unique strengths of each stakeholder involved.
  • Innovation: We will uphold and support true innovation that is outside the scope of markets, traditional philanthropy and public services.
  • Integrity: We actively seek to uphold a culture characterized by truthfulness, trust and mutual support.
  • Reflexivity: We believe in being dynamic and reflexive to current socio-political affairs and building our work in a way that benefits the communities we seek to serve and contribute to rights for all.
  • Respect: We believe in nurturing an environment of respect to every individual and organization.
  • Social Justice: MHI's work in grantmaking and capacity building will uphold the core principles of social justice, viz, participation, human rights, equity and access.

Our Journey so far

2015
Jan
Talking to stakeholders

- mental health professionals, users, service providers -- to glean insights about mental health, and existing need gaps.

Apr
iCall Strategic Partnership

Strategic partnership with iCall, an existing service based in Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai.

2016
Aug
Partnership with Bapu Trust, Pune

Bapu Trust works with stakeholders in the development sector to encourage the inclusion of persons with mental health issues and psychosocial disabilities.

Dec
Partnership with Centre for Mental Health Law and Policy, Pune

CMHLP builds awareness of and advocates rights-based approach to mental health policy and legislation.

2017
May
Partnership with Anjali, Kolkata

an organization working with persons who suffer from chronic mental illnesses, living in state institutions for care and treatment.

Jun
Sponsored Bapu Trust's arts-based therapy course for practitioners

a certificate course in Arts Based Therapy (ABT) with a focus on psychosocial health, mental health and disabilities.

Oct
MHI website launched

The site was built centering accessibility. Web accessibility refers to the inclusive practice of removing barriers that prevent interaction with websites, by people with disabilities.

2018
May
Sponsored trainings conducted by CMHLP

on Mental Health Care Act 2017 for a range of stakeholders.

Apr
Partnership with Anubhuti Trust

to support 'Community Development Committees' comprising local youth, to lead counseling, trainings, awareness drives, as well as advocacy with local and municipal government on development concerns of their area.

Jul
Project to provide Family Court Counseling Centers

to understand marital concerns and stressors experienced by litigants of family courts in Maharashtra and to develop counseling and other interventions for the 11 Family Courts across the state.

Sep
Partnership with Bhor Foundation

to sponsor their 'Merchants of Madness Foundation'.

2019
Feb
LAUNCHED A 6 DAY QUEER-AFFIRMATIVE COUNSELLING PRACTICE COURSE

for mental health practitioners.

Apr
Partnerships

with Basic Needs India, SNEHA Mumbai, Schizophernia Awareness Association, Ya_all, Burans Project, DLR Prerna, RCJJ, Mann and Rahi

Sep
Launched peer support practice

for LGBTQI+ individuals.

Nov
Study on Mental Health of Entrepreneurs

in partnership with Ascent Foundation.

Nov
Received the Hurun Award

for outstanding work in philanthropy in Mental Health.

2020
Jan
Initiated Community of Practice

led by Mental Health frontline workers in partnership with the University of Edinburgh.

Mar
MoU with Bihar State Government

to build capacity and implement the Mental Healthcare Act 2017.

Apr
Partnerships

with Ishwar Sankalpa, Kashmir Lifeline, DISHA and WAYVE Foundation.

Apr
COVID relief

in partnership with 23 community-based organizations and collectives across 18 states.

Dec
Launched Gender, Sexual and Mental Health from the Margins

- an introductory workshop-style session for college students.

2021
Jan
Launched Youth Care Network

in partnership with The YP Foundation to train youth leaders, on mental health. These leaders would in turn, be able to provide peer counselling services and referrals in their community and sphere of work.

Apr
Partnered with

Moitrisanjog, Nirangal

Jul
Partnered with

Jeeva Trust

Aug
Partnered with

Samvada

Sep
Launched the Alliance for Suicide Prevention

The Alliance will bring together funders, organizations, activists, researchers and policymakers to work cohesively on preventing suicide in India at the individual and community levels.

Sep
Partnered with

Project Ohana

2022
Apr
Partnered with

Parcham

May
Partnered with

The Listening Station

Jun
Launched QACP Resource Book

The Queer Affirmative Counselling Practice (QACP) Resource Book is a pathbreaking text that is truly the first of its kind to be published as a textbook for Psy disciplines. The book provides a balance of information, perspective, skill and an eclectic set of pedagogic tools for Mental health professionals, social workers and stakeholders within mental health to engage with the content that is drawn from the lived experiences of queer-trans realities.

Jun
Partnered with

BDS Samabhoobana

Jul
Partnered with

Project Sahyog

Jul
Partnered with

Project SPEAK

Our Impact

127
publications & research activities complete
Referrals
were used to maximize support 17,000+ times
24,000+ people
trained under
various
programs

Our Team

Aashima Sodhi

Aashima is an Associate at Mariwala Health Initiative. She pursued her Masters in Psychology from Panjab University. At MHI, Aashima is primarily involved with training programs on gender, sexuality and mental health. Her role includes managing the Queer Affirmative Counselling Practice (QACP) and Gender, Sexuality and Mental Health from the Margins (GSMHM) programs, conducting research, evaluating and setting up collaborations, managing social media for these themes and the logistics.

Abhilash Durugkar

Abhilash is a Grants Associate at the Mariwala Health Initiative. He has completed his Master's in Social Work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. Abhilash has previously worked on issues of homeless persons with mental illness, labour rights and the implementation of the Mental Healthcare Act 2017. He is interested in the intersection of gender, caste, homelessness and mental health. He has freelance experience as a content writer and has contributed to publications such as Feminism in India, Youth ki Awaaz and Dainik Bhaskar.

Anam Mittra

Anam Mittra is our Lead, New Initiatives. Her work experience of 9 years spans working on issues of gender, sexuality, education and the social and solidarity economy. She has worked on research, project implementation, communications and membership development verticals. Anam has completed her Masters in Development Studies from TISS, Mumbai and her second Masters in Development Communication from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.   

Anjini Chandra

Anjini Chandra is a Grants Associate at MHI. She has a Master's degree in Social Anthropology from SOAS, University of London, where she worked on the intersections of anthropology, cultural psychiatry and models of mental health care. Anjini has experience in the education sector and has freelanced as a content writer and illustrator. She is training to be an Open Dialogue practitioner.

Bhawesh Jha
Bhawesh Jha is the Manager at MHI. He is a Public Health professional with interests in health services delivery, health systems strengthening and law. Previously, he worked with NHSRC (a technical support unit under National Health Mission) in Jharkhand. He has also managed a large-scale research project on Tuberculosis and Nutrition funded by ICMR. He holds a Master's Degree in Health Administration from School of Health Systems Studies, TISS.
Hamsini Ravi

Hamsini Ravi is our Communications Manager, with 9 years of experience in communications and knowledge creation for the social sector with both donors and implementing organizations working across public health and child rights. She has a master’s degree in Development Studies from the University of Sussex, UK. Hamsini is also a passionate writer and her writing has been featured in The Hindu, Huffington Post and The Swaddle. Hamsini was awarded the SCARF Media Award for Mental Health Reporting in 2019.

Harsh Mariwala

Mr. Mariwala, who leads Marico Limited as its Chairman, founded Mariwala Health Initiative (MHI) in 2015. He is also Chairman and Managing Director of Kaya Limited. Over the past three decades, he has transformed a traditional, commodities-driven business into a leading consumer products and services company in the Beauty and Wellness area. Under his leadership, Marico has received numerous awards, and over 100 external recognition. Mr Mariwala was President of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in 2011.

Mangala Honawar

Mangala Honawar, PhD is Lead, Grants at MHI. Her experience spanning 15 years includes diverse roles as a social worker, project coordinator, project head, teaching associate and fieldwork supervisor. She led the access to justice portfolio at one of the largest philanthropies in India and her areas of expertise include project management and implementation, grant management, liaison with government departments across themes such as violence against women and children, homelessness, community policing, prison reforms, victim restoration and de-notified tribes. She has completed her PhD on recidivism among women offenders from Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

Olimpika Oja

Olimpika is our Communications Associate at MHI. She holds an M. Phil in Women’s and Gender Studies from Ambedkar University, Delhi and a Master’s degree in Literature in English from the University of Delhi. Her eclectic work experience of six years- ranges from teaching and academic research to research and creative-production in films and communication design for digital media projects. She loves oral history research, popular culture, understanding crime and listening to podcasts on mental health. She was awarded the Junior Research Fellowship by UGC.

Priti Sridhar

Priti Sridhar is CEO at MHI. She focuses on building the Grants portfolio which is primarily community led, spearheads the advocacy initiatives where she leads the work on Suicide Prevention, Workplace Mental Health, working with government and collaborating with Funders to invest in mental health. Priti has been able to conceptualise and implement programs and training to build the mental health ecosystem in India. She has 25 years of work experience and has worked with Not-for-profit organisations working on the issue of Mental health, Child Rights and Homelessness as well with For-Profit organisations in Banking, Financial Services and Ratings. Priti has extensive knowledge in Finance, Strategy and HR and aims to combine these experiences with her interests in rights-based mental health to spotlight and support organisations and leaders providing community-based interventions.

Raj Mariwala

Raj Mariwala is  Director at Mariwala Health Initiative and currently serves on the boards of the Global Mental Health Action Network, the Lancet Commission on Stigma and Discrimination and Parcham, a nonprofit that serves adolescent girls through sports. Raj is also a practising canine and feline behaviourist.

Saisha M.

Saisha is a Grants Manager at MHI. She is also a fellow at the Orygen Global Youth Mental Health Advocacy Fellowship (2021). She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Bard College, for which she wrote a thesis evaluating community-based trauma interventions as accessible forms of mental health care. Apart from community-based mental health work, Saisha’s interests include media analysis on issues of identity.

Shruthi M

Shruthi M (she/ they) is a Project Coordinator at MHI. Their experience spans working in the eldercare and precious metals refining sectors. Shruthi also has an interest in poetry, music and intersectional feminism. They have a Graduate Certificate in Public Policy from The Takshashila Institution and an MBA in Marketing and Finance.

Shruti Chakravarty

Shruti Chakravarty, PhD, (cis woman; pronouns: she, her) has 20 years of experience in the non-profit sector, as a mental health practitioner, researcher, trainer, and social worker. Her areas of engagement have been mental health, gender and sexuality, from a rights-based perspective. She has an independent therapeutic practice based in Mumbai, has in-depth experience working with LGBTQIA+ clients in the therapeutic space, and has co-authored Queer Affirmative Counselling Practice (QACP): A Resource Book for Mental Health Practitioners in India. She has completed her PhD on the subject of queer intimacies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences. Shruti is Chief Advisor at Mariwala Health Initiative (MHI) and also faculty at the Queer Affirmative Counselling Practice course run by MHI.

Vandana

Vandana (she/ they) is a Grants Associate at MHI. She has completed her Master's in Social Work in Mental Health from BALM-TISS, Chennai. She has worked in content localization and translation in parallel to her education for the past 4 years. She has a keen interest in the area of social justice.

 

Vaishali Sonavane

Dr. Vaishali is a Grants Manager at MHI. She holds a Phd in Women’s Studies from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Hyderabad. Dr. Vaishali has 15 years of experience with NGOs, Government Institutions, International and national networks and rights’ based movements across themes such as women’s health, dalit rights, manual scavenging and unorganised workers’ rights. Vaishali has training expertise in topics like gender and health. She is also a certified mental health professional.

Advisory Committee

Amalina Kohli Dave

Amalina Kohli Dave is a mental health activist, user-survivor, who has organised queer mental health discussion groups and co-hosted a series of workshops about mental health in theatre . She has also started support groups for people with chronic illness, including chronic pain and autoimmune illness. Her previous research includes studies on race and mental health access as well as queer persons experiences with cishet mental health professionals. While Amalina's day job is in rare book restoration, she has studied Gender and is inspired by a feminist disability rights approach and crip theory.

Dr. Kiran Valake

Kiran is a young doctor from B J Medical College Pune and his aiming to do his MD. In the past, he has actively worked with an organization working towards making caste affirmative mental health services available for people from Bahujan communities. His interests lie in making institutes of higher learning safe spaces for caste marginalized students. In the near future, he hopes to train mental health professionals on protocols for working with clients from marginalized castes.

Poonam Pardesi

Poonam Pardesi is blind since birth, and has a total of 16 years of work experience in the social sector. She is a trained social worker from TISS Mumbai, and currently works as a Programme Officer with Aide et Action International, a Switzerland based Funder as part of the Programme Development and Support Unit. Poonam believes that disability issues must be placed as human rights issues, and as part of humanity and human diversity.

Pramada Menon

Pramada Menon is a queer feminist activist who has been actively involved in the social justice and women’s human rights sector in India and internationally for more than two decades. She is the Co-founder of CREA and worked there as Director Programs from 2000 till 2008. Prior to that she was with the Dastkar, an organization working for the promotion of crafts and crafts people, as Executive Director. Since 2008, she has been working as an independent consultant with a variety of organizations on issues of women’s human rights, gender and sexuality, organizational change management and professional coaching. 

Ruby Hembrom

Ruby Hembrom is an Adivasi cultural documentarian and practitioner based in Kolkata. She is the founder of adivaani (first voices), an archiving and publishing outfit of and by Adivasis (the indigenous peoples of India) started in July 2012 as a non-profit organization. She is the writer of adivaani’s Santal Creation Stories for children, a recast of the Santal Creation myths in English and the prize-winning Disaibon Hul, on the Santal Rebellion of 1855–57. Her documentation initiative grew out of a need to claim Adivasi stake in historical and contemporary social, cultural, and literary spaces and as peoples.

Sonalini Mirchandani

Sonalini Mirchandani has several decades of experience in social sector communication. Her work in communications research, design, capacity building and implementation has spanned sectors including reproductive health, child rights, gender-based violence, governance, and others. Starting her career as a diplomat, she moved on to work in the private sector and subsequently in the social sector, and held positions including that of Vice President, Operations Research Group, and Country Director, Johns Hopkins University - Centre for Communication Programmes. She is the Founder CEO of The Communication Hub, and is a member of several advisory bodies including the Steering Committee of the Stigma Action Network, UNICEF’s International Polio Communications Review Team, Advisory Council of Population Foundation of India, and SNEHA. Sonalini is an active member of the Mumbai Network of Palliative Care.