Recently, we were joined by Burans in our ‘Linking 2 Learn’ webinar. They shared how they are improving mental health in communities in India and some valuable lessons we can learn. Read the highlights below.
Burans is a non-profit organisation based in Uttarakhand state, a region with very few mental health professionals and resources for mental health. It is estimated that out of 10 million people living in the state, there are only about 30 Psychiatrists and one psychiatric hospital.
Dr. Kaaren Mathias, founded Burans in 2014 as a partnership between a community hospital and the Uttarakhand Cluster, with the aim of working with the local disadvantaged communities to provide mental health and wellbeing by building on their strengths and resources.
How do they do it?
Burans design their programmes together with people who have mental health challenges. They ask them questions like “What are the trends in this community?” and “What does recovery look like?” Active listening helps them know what the local community needs. They then come up with ways to meet these needs together.
After listening, Burans formed a group of Experts by Experience (EBE) which consists of people who have lived through mental health challenges. They believe that EBEs have far more understanding about what is important to them and what does not work. Members participate through group discussions, team building activities and participatory activities in order to build trust and vulnerability.
What challenges have they encountered?
Some of the people in the EBE groups did not think that they were experts and didn’t think that they brought anything valuable to the group. However, when the Burans team started to develop some pictures and resources, they realised they had much greater local knowledge and expertise.
For example, they noticed and explained that locally the custom is that a parent must always carry a child’s school bag. This helped them trust that they are experts and that they can help each other with the knowledge they have.
The Burans team are also aware that hierarchy could disrupt the program and they counter this by involving all members in developments and discussions regardless of their age, gender, religion or education background.
Being a part of these EBE groups have helped group members grow as leaders. Some members have even taken up the initiative to advocate for access to health care. Because of this, the community has received credibility and support from the government and key leaders. The advocacy has resulted in the beginning of a government-supply of medicines for mental health problems in the rural district of Uttarakhand.
Burans have also helped create awareness in the community. More people are coming forward and the stigma and discrimination is going down. Over 3000 people with mental health problems have increased their mental health knowledge and know where to go for help.
To listen to their story in more detail, access the ‘Linking 2 Learn’ recording HERE