Mental Health Care Reaches Remote Villages in Yamuna Valley

Taking its name form the rhododendron flower which spreads colour—and consequently hope—over the hillsides of Uttarakhand each spring, Burans is a community-based mental health program for this region. Given the shortfall of mental health professionals in the State, (seven government psychiatrists for the population of 10 million people) persons living with a mental health issue, or those experiencing gender-based violence, often have to travel long distances to access care and treatment. In recognition of this gap in services, Burans works to train both frontline health workers and lay community members to provide psycho-social support.

Burans recently celebrated the launch of another community mental health program in Naugaon block that will enable over 160 villages to access mental health care services. ASHA workers in these villages and community representatives will be sensitized and enabled to provide mental health care via training workshops. Through forming and training Community Health Action Groups, the program will ensure that these villages are more inclusive of those living with mental health conditions. Burans also leverages the cultural role that women in these communities play as leaders and caregivers—training them in identifying those in need of mental health care—to bridge the gap in mental health services in the region.

Burans Director, Dr Kaaren Mathias shared “how delighted (they were) to start this project in the Yamuna valley, one of the most sparsely populated districts in all of India, that over five years has supported more than 1,400 people with psycho-social disabilities through community-based engagement and support.” She emphasized how she believed that the program “would lead to greater mental health, social inclusion and non-violent communities.”

Jointly funded by MHI and True North, this three-year long program will work closely with the government, involving frontline workers and government-appointed health officers, to ensure sustainability. Uttarkashi District Mental Health programme nodal officer, Dr Barman, along with other government representatives, travelled over 100 kilometres to participate in the inauguration. Dr Barman observed how “important it is to work in collaboration with the Government” and reiterated the respect that he had for the project on this account. 

The inauguration of Buran’s latest program included community dance performances and a street play by community workers which carried a message on the importance of seeking mental health care. Participants pledged to support community mental health, promote social inclusion and build violence-free communities.