Centre for Research and Social Action in Mental Health

Mental Health and Social Action Lab

While there are several programmes being initiated by the Government and civil society organisations in the mental health sector, the focus on measuring the efficacy and effectiveness of programmes is rarely a priority. Research at The Banyan Academy of Leadership in Mental Health (BALM) seeks to fill this gap, and, is focused on capturing trends in service usage, design effectiveness, and quality of care at The Banyan and its network of partners across the country. This will aid in capturing organisational and sectoral level patterns in mental health care service provision. Thus far, there has been very little information generated and analysed longitudinally in this space, and, successes and challenges from some of these programmes unfortunately do not feed into the larger discourse on mental health. Thus more often than not, existing information and knowledge is re-packaged, with limited focus on nuances, and multi-dimensionality of the problem and solutions that may address it.

Critical insights, analysis and dissemination of the same can result in improving mental health care services for vulnerable groups in low resource settings.

Thus, research at BALM seeks to:

Design and execute simple yet robust mechanisms to capture data (qualitative and quantitative) at the programme, organisational and landscape levels
Create SMART result oriented, process driven, and value based monitoring and evaluation frameworks to enable seamless generation and analysis of information
Develop auditing processes (and conduct audits) that measure fidelity to programme vision, ethos, and approach to ensure high quality of care, and high value client outcomes.

The Banyan Academy of Leadership in Mental Health (BALM), incubates the Centre for Research and Social Action in Mental Health, a research, teaching, practice and leadership hub embedded in the philosophy of bridging the gap between theory and practice. The Centre seeks to create a dynamic environment for discussion, debate and knowledge creation and co-creation in mental health and the social sciences, aimed at increasing access to value-based, comprehensive mental health services (particularly for vulnerable populations), and evolving progressive policy direction. This is done by ensuring that lessons from the ground, and the voices of ‘experiential experts’ are articulated robustly, and shared effectively with the diverse range of stakeholders invested in the mental health and development sectors.

The key functions of the Centre for Research and Social Action in Mental Health include:

Building robust practice based evidence

The research agenda at the Centre for Research and Social Action in Mental Health is focused on unpacking the unique social ecology of mental illness, marginalisation, exclusion and inclusion; exploring complex associations between homelessness, poverty and mental health; and understanding mechanisms of diverse user centred initiatives in mental health. Thus transdisciplinary research, ethnography and other qualitative methods are frequently and robustly used. This operates in congruence with other research inquiries conducted at BALM, aimed at generating trends, and monitoring programmes (across organisational and landscape levels), such that mental health systems can be effectively monitored and efficiency compared from multi-dimensional viewpoints.

The Centre for Research and Social Action in Mental Health incubates two working groups that focus specifically on themes that are critical to the scale up of mental health services across the country, namely:

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Working Group on Inclusive Development

A collaboration between BALM – Boston University – Vrije Universiteit (VU), and Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).

Research Description

This group focuses on building knowledge in the implementation sciences, and creating innovative mental health care solutions, that are value – based, resource efficient, and context specific. This is particularly relevant given that international and national organisations have taken cognisance of the importance of mental health issues and included them as a key mandate in achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Some of the inquiries being undertaken in this centre so far include:

  • NALAM: Wellness oriented, multi-interventional approaches to mental health
  • The home again trial, a quasi-experimental study of a housing with supportive services intervention for women with mental illness experiencing long term needs
  • Where does institutional mental health sit in the capabilities framework, implications for human rights and care practice?
  • Understanding the types of capacity building packages, and pedagogical tools that build perspectives, provide robust technical and soft-skills, and encourage critical thinking and reflexive practice for mental health practitioners.
  • Gaining an understanding of the constitution of value-based frameworks of care that are user-centric and promote individual capabilities, social inclusion, and a state of personal recovery, and gain insight as to whether they can be inspired / transferred to other mental health professionals.
  • Understanding and addressing structural barriers to care
  • Creating innovative and flexible rural livelihood options – reducing scarcity as a barrier to well being
  • Understanding burden and sources of strength amongst caregivers of women with mental health issues
  • Prevalence and characteristics of dropout of patients from outpatient clinical services provided by The Banyan
Working Group on Homelessness and Marginality

In collaboration with the Centre for Equity Studies, and New York University (McSilver Poverty Institute).

Research Description

Key concepts explored by this working group include, the ‘lived experience’ of homelessness, pathways into and out of a state of homelessness, marginalisation and exclusion through an anthropological framework. The group also seeks to create viable alternatives to shelter based support services. The working group also incubates a community collective movement “Kind People Happy City” that seeks to build awareness around issues of vulnerability and marginalisation, and enthuse and inspire engagement to create more responsive, safe, and connected cities. Some of the key research inquiries being conducted by this working group include:

  • Experiences of distress, marginalisation and trauma among people sleeping rough
  • Fostering inclusion: can open shelters be community resource centres?
  • Street engagement services as alternatives to shelter based care
  • Reducing social distance and promoting social mobility among homeless persons with mental illness
  • Engaging youth in promoting social responsibility and encouraging social mixing – particularly among marginalized and vulnerable groups
  • Understanding pathways to homelessness
  • Understanding individual conceptualisations of distress and recovery among homeless women with mental health issues
  • Hearing voices – the link between the mind, brain, behavior and society
  • Conceptualisation of human rights among vulnerable and marginalized groups – a nuanced perspective
  • Frameworks for adaptive mental health institutions