Mind Care For Mental Help

The Moneylife Team looks at Vandrevala Foundation that deals with mental health

In a crowded city like Mumbai, it is not uncommon to see someone suffering from dyslexia or a mental health disorder. But most people know little about mental health issues unless a close friend or family member suffers from a disorder. Do you know that there are 43 mental health hospitals in India, all set up before 1947? A National Human Rights Commission study says: There are only two kinds of hospitals. The first are ‘dumping grounds’ for families to abandon their mentally ill member, for either economic reasons or a lack of understanding and awareness of mental illness. The second type of hospitals provides basic living amenities but the treatment focuses on managing patients rather than enhancing their living skills. In addition, there is the stigma associated with mental illnesses and, often, a refusal to acknowledge a problem. Yet, “a massive 8%-10% of the population apparently suffers from major or minor mental illness,” says Dr Arun John, executive vice president of the Vandrevala Foundation. 

  “When we started out with a mission to improve mental health in India over a year ago, we were hoping to write cheques to a couple of non-government organisations (NGOs), be able to review their results four times a year and pat ourselves on the back for making a difference. What ensued was a discovery of the dark corners of disease, the discrimination and the realisation that we had no idea about what we were trying to achieve, let alone how to do it,” says Priya Hiranandani Vandrevala, chief executive officer of Hirco PLC, a real-estate investment company.

Founded and fully funded by Priya and Cyrus Vandrevala, the Vandrevala Foundation began operations on 3 August 2009 by launching ‘The Mental Health Initiative’. As a first step, it launched a 24x7 mental health helpline. Its mission is to create community-based mental health services, increase awareness of mental health, provide access to improved treatment to every individual irrespective of economic status and enable patients and their families the opportunity for recovery and reintegration into society. 

Dr John says, “We are looking for strategic partners —corporates, like-minded individuals or NGOs with the same goals to help us in our endeavour.” Interestingly, the Vandrevala Foundation says it is a not-for-profit that works like a ‘for-profit’ organisation, but for social profits, not economic gains.

“Preventive action is possible and necessary for physical illness, but there is no such thing for mental illness,” says Dr John. So the Foundation runs a 24x7 helpline (022-2570 6000) to counsel people in need. It also has senior psychiatrists available for acute psychiatric emergency or complex issues. It helps arrange free ambulance services; helps arrange admissions to mental-care facilities; and follows up to track the status of mentally-ill persons to ensure that they stick to treatment. It arranges meetings with psychiatrists. The idea behind the helpline is the realisation that often people know they need help, but don’t know who to turn to. 

The Vandrevala Foundation also supports entrepreneurial, social-sector start-ups which local governments are unable, or unwilling, to fund. The Foundation plans to expand its helplines to Pune, Nashik and Nagpur. “The ultimate goal is a pan-India presence,” says Dr John. Currently, the Foundation has 12 clinical psychologists as well as five mid-level and four senior psychiatrists on its rolls.
It also has a network of 70 psychiatrists, psychologists and counsellors all over Mumbai who support the cause. It has students who can communicate in English, Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati manning the helplines. It has two tiers of psychiatrists who look into mental illness cases, depending on the severity of affliction. It also plans to set up crisis management face-to-face counselling and support groups and to upgrade mental hospitals in Maharashtra.

If you know of someone who needs help, you can call or email the Vandrevala Foundation.

VandrevalaFoundation:Sigma, 6th floor, Central Avenue,
Hiranandani Gardens, Powai, Mumbai 400 076         
Telephone: +91-22-2570 6000       
Email: [email protected]
Website: www.vandrevalafoundation.com

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Out of the box FOR A HELPING HAND

In early 1990, when the legendary late HT Parekh was looking to set up an endowment with the specific purpose of improving the quality of life in Bombay by harnessing people’s initiatives (for which he had asked me to research in those pre-Internet days), a community chest appeared to be the most appropriate model to work with. The term community chest was a US coinage in 1913 although the concept—cooperative collection, for charitable purposes, for area-specific civic problems—had originated in the UK in the 1870s.

The Bombay Community Public Trust (BCPT) was registered as a trust with corporate and individual financial contributions in 1991. At the launch of BCPT, HT Parekh wrote: “I do not entertain any grandiose vision… I take a positive view of life and encourage all genuine efforts to improve things. I like to extend a helping hand to every kind of development activity…” Two decades later, BCPT has been able to live up to his dream—of being an aggregator of funds and lending ‘a helping hand’ to a variety of NGOs and activist groups that are engaged in tackling the myriad problems that Mumbai faces.

Says Harsha Parekh, executive trustee, BCPT: “We cannot hope to solve Mumbai’s problems, but at least we can financially help the many, many people who are trying to mitigate them in their own little ways.”

A community chest or foundation, by definition, is not an implementation agency. It is a funding institution—a facilitator and catalyst—with specific features like: working in a defined geographic area; not concerned with any one activity or cause; permanent endowment; uses contributions and investment earnings to provide grants to charities, non-profit organisations and community groups; and brings together a community’s problem-solvers, activists and citizens. Being an agency with local roots, a community chest quickly identifies local needs and responds with alacrity to any crisis. This was witnessed especially in BCPT’s response to several Mumbai disasters like the 27/8 bomb blasts; 26/7 floods or the train blasts of 11/7 and even the terrorist attacks of 26/11. For these disaster mitigation causes, BCPT has disbursed total grants of Rs3.48 crore to some 1,200 beneficiaries till date.

The major issues that BCPT has identified for support are: education, senior citizens, environment and other child-related interventions. Cumulatively, nearly 51% of its funds went into educational and child-related activities, 5% to take care of senior citizens; 3% to environment-related causes and 15% for miscellaneous projects. Till date, 458 projects have been assisted; BCPT provides scholarships to 150 students each year with a special focus on the girl child—67% (100 students) of the scholarships are for girls compared to 33% (50 students) for boys. Besides supporting formal education programmes, BCPT has been encouraging initiatives that foster reading as well as non-formal learning.

The strength of BCPT lies in its due diligence—though no formal and qualification-based appraisal techniques are applied for grant-making, it carefully whets the credibility of the organisations it supports. Grants are spread over instalments with clearly laid down deliverables. And there is constant monitoring of each project until its completion. It has, therefore, been able to attract management responsibility of several private trusts and foundations who feel that their ‘earmarked funds’ will be efficiently delivered to the target beneficiaries and properly monitored.

It is strange that the concept of community chests has not yet caught on in India. Even more surprising is the fact that, despite BCPT’s pedigree, payroll contributions—the widely prevalent way of funding of community chests the world over—has not even made a beginning in Mumbai.

The Bombay
Community Public Trust

Earnest House, 7th Floor,
Nariman Point,
Mumbai 400 021
Phone: (+91) 22 2284 5928
Email: [email protected]
Website: bcpt.org.in

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Sweet Notes For Twilight Years

Savita Narayan profiles an eldercare institution with a scientific temper in Bengaluru

Florence Nightingale would have been amazed at the impact of her work more than 150 years later on the lives of the elderly in Bengaluru.

Dr Radha Murthy, founder of the Nightingales Medical Trust, began her involvement with eldercare when she noticed that several old patients at hospitals had mobility problems and, hence, of reaching healthcare facilities. Nightingales Home Health Services, inspired by the legendary nurse, began by offering the elderly medical assistance at home, ensuring promptness, convenience and eliminating the effort of moving about in a busy metropolis.

Close interaction with patients brought the realisation that eldercare was more than just physical—there were unmet emotional, social and economic needs too. At the Nightingales Elders Enrichment Centre, a venue for social interaction and day-care, elders avail of a library, medical care, counselling on health, fitness programmes and advice on diet and financial planning. Talks by experts, music sessions and get-togethers are organised. Steady Steps is a specialised, scientific, exercise-based fall-prevention programme with a well-qualified team. Its aim is to ensure maximum mobility and fitness without drugs. Dr Murthy says, “In India, by 2050, the number of elders (340 million) and the young are estimated to become equal. In the Indian context, it is essential that we set up family-based eldercare systems which are affordable and acceptable.”

Sandhya Kirana, a joint project with Bengaluru’s municipal corporation, is a free elder day-care centre for the poor. Open every day from 9am to 5pm, it offers economic assistance for activities such as making paper products and plates of areca nut leaves.

The Elders Economic Security Initiative of Nightingales promotes employment opportunities for non-pensioned, low-income senior citizens. With many elders physically fit beyond retirement age and having to cope with a high cost of living, the scheme prepares a database of job-seekers prepared to work a minimum of four hours per day, gives orientation programmes, identifies job opportunities and arranges placements. Computer training is offered in collaboration with the National Institute of Social Defence.

Elders Helpline, in collaboration with the Bengaluru Police and BSNL, alerts the police and offers help when an elder’s telephone is off the hook for 20 seconds. The telephone is identified through the caller ID and the elders’ database. Neighbours registered with the police are alerted. If required, a police team arrives immediately. The service has helped in cases of elder abuse, intrusion into homes and tracing of lost, disoriented elders. Free legal advice and reverse mortgage counselling is also available. The Helpline is offered within the city limits and is free. It receives over 40 calls a day.

Nightingales Lifesaving Services offers training in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first-aid. Over 14,000 people from over 100 organisations have been trained in CPR and about 13,000 in first-aid. Nightingales caters to the medical needs of 37 villages in 15 centres outside Bengaluru. The free service is used by around 70 elders every day. A fully equipped mobile medical van visits three centres daily on a pre-determined route. The mobile van provides cataract screening, dental care and other basic facilities. Cases needing specialised care are referred to nearby hospitals. A Dementia Care Centre has been set up in collaboration with Alzheimer’s Australia WA, globally renowned in dementia care. This modern 70-bed facility is the first of its kind in India. It offers institutional care for the dementia-afflicted and the aged. The team comprises physicians, neurologists, psychiatrists, therapists and nursing staff.

Nightingales offers a six-month certificate course in geriatric care and has been authorised by the Government of Karnataka to issue ID cards to senior citizens that can help them avail several benefits. With Indian families and support systems changing rapidly, Nightingales fulfils the needs of the elderly that are sometimes not articulated but are always deeply felt.

Nightingales Medical Trust
337, 2nd Cross, 1st Block,
RT Nagar, Bengaluru 560 032
Phone: 080 23548444 / 555 / 666
Website: www.nightingaleseldercare.com

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