Since its beginning in 2007, The Banyan Academy of Leadership in Mental Health (BALM) has strived to bridge care gaps through the development of comprehensive mental health solutions and human service professionals. Research, Social Action and Public Policy influence have always been our pivots, as has building effective and ethical leadership in the mental health sector, sensitive to the needs of vulnerable individuals and communities. As a result, we have been involved in the training of key stakeholders engaged in governance and health care such as panchayat leaders, police officials and the judiciary. Similarly, our research studies have been centred around minority mental health and testing the efficacy of solutions that work in the context of those socially disadvantaged. A landmark study in this context resulted in the inclusion of people living with mental illnesses or disabilities within the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) (Ravikanth, et. al.). From 2012 onwards, we partnered with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and other academic institutions on research and to run Masters programmes in social work in Mental Health and Applied psychology and further build young social and mental health sector leaders. BALM has, along with Masters level training, built capacity amongst nearly 650 people from diverse backgrounds (400 community mobilisers, social health coordinators, PhD Scholars, Mental Health leaders and 200 Masters levels mental health professionals) through multiple partnerships with University of Pennsylvania, the National Health Mission, The Panchayat Academy, Local State Governments etc.
The Banyan and BALM have remained steadfast to their commitment to improving the mental health of ultra-vulnerable groups through comprehensive psycho-social solutions and expansion of services by partnering with a wide range of stakeholders. Through the combination of practice, research and training, course content has been developed to support capacity building both nationally and internationally to promote mental health care and mental wellbeing in low resource settings.