Founding Members

Prof. Dr. Vandana Gopikumar (Co-Founder and Managing Trustee)

Vandana is a mental health and social work practitioner who co-founded The Banyan in 1993, with Vaishnavi Jayakumar, after completion of a Master’s Programme in Psychiatric Social Work. Her Doctoral thesis, largely based on the work of The Banyan, inquired into the mental ill health- poverty -homelessness nexus in India and explored strategic responses to address related distress. Vandana considers her years of living and interacting with homeless and marginalised persons with mental health issues, as having significantly impacted her life in many ways- these persons remain her most important teachers.

She is engaged in developing a strong second line by providing strategic direction and mentorship to senior teams in both organisations. She is passionate about drawing evidence from these niche experiments and applying them in other low resource settings across India and the Global South. Towards this she currently fostering strategic partnerships and alliances with civil society organisations, academic institutions and Governments. She is also writing her first book on the role of structural violence and identity in perpetuating mental ill health and enabling recovery.

Mr. Balraj Vasudevan (Co-Founder and Managing Trustee)

Mr.Balraj Vasudevan is an industrialist and philanthropist with over 25 years of experience in the auto component sector. He has been engaged with The Banyan since inception, and is the Managing Trustee, and is the Founder Trustee of The Banyan Academy of Leadership in Mental Health (BALM). He has been engaged in mentoring the second line – the senior management team on internal services (human resources, finance and administration) to ensure seamless operations and functioning across The Banyan and BALM’s multiple initiatives. He supports the team in taking strategic steps towards ensuring financial sustainability, and has helped developed a multi-pronged approach to being self-sufficient – by doggedly building a corpus, bidding for research grants, engaging with the Government, and creating micro-small-medium enterprises. He has a deep commitment to catalysing social change, and is actively engaged with various organisations, across multiple domains in the development sector, including health, mental health, homelessness, education and community development.

Ms. Vaishnavi Jayakumar (Co-Founder)

Co-Founder, The Banyan / Person living with psychosocial disability / Ethicist / Caregiver / Reluctant Activist / Non-Profit Professional / Free thinker / Horton Fan / Concerned Citizen / General Busybody & what-have-you ;-)