Uttarakhand, a state in Northern India has just seven government psychiatrists for the population of 10 million people — and rural areas, such as Uttarkashi, the least populated district in Uttarakhand, have no psychiatrist or psychologists or even access to psychotropic medications through public services . Although the National Mental Health programme was approved for implementation across Uttarakhand in 2016, implementation to date has focused on training primary care doctors. While one primary care doctor in Uttarkashi district hospital received training in NIMHANS, there are currently no psycho-tropic medications dispensed at any Community Health Center or Public Health Center in the State. This absence of professionals means that persons living with a mental health issue, or those experiencing gender-based violence, have to travel long distances to the capital city of Dehradun, to access care and treatment. At the same time, there is growing evidence that community-based initiatives working with trained lay workers can provide psycho-social support and actions that promote violence-free and mentally-healthy communities in India.
Burans project has identified and supported over 1,000 people with psycho-social disabilities in the Dehradun district and facilitated access to care (either psychiatric or psycho-social community based support) for these people with an intensive home-support program. Beyond these families, Burans has trained over 1,000 ASHA workers in mental health and epilepsy. The organization’s activities in increasing mental health awareness have highly impacted help-seeking behavior patterns and are likely to be a factor in the reported five-fold increase in people attending the outpatient department at the State Mental Hospital in Selaqui. Burans has developed a strong relationship with the Department of Health Uttarakhand where it is recognised as the lead NGO in the State that is working in mental health. Examples of the recognition of Buran’s state-level leadership includes the fact that the organization was asked to conduct a two-day workshop on the National Mental Health Programme for all the State medical officers in December 2015 and that EHA continues to be tasked by the State to run Nari Niketan, a state institution for homeless women with psychosocial disability.
Burans will use MHI funding to iteratively develop and implement a project promoting mental health and recovery, youth resilience and violence-free communities and effective healthcare among rural communities in Naugaon and Purola blocks, Uttarkashi district, Uttarakhand. Some of the project's objectives include increasing the mental health knowledge and skills of women in these communities via the twelve-module Nae Umeed curriculum — and building the resilience of youth in these communities via training programs. The project aims to enable people living with a psychosocial disability (PSD) to find pathways to recovery and rehabilitation, and to ensure that communities are more inclusive and participatory through the formation of Community Health Action groups, sensitisation workshops and specific programmes seeking to build social and financial inclusion.