MENTAL healthcare is the legal right of every Indian under the law. But the state of mental health infrastructure in India is inadequate.

According to the 2016 National Mental Health Survey by the National Institute of Mental Health & Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), there is hardly one psychiatrist per 100,000 people in India. This is extremely low given that mental illness constitutes nearly one-sixth of all health-related disorders in the country. This has mainly been due to a lack of resources and expertise in the field. It is also a fact that for decades, mental health has not been a priority and, compounded by low literacy, traditional and religious beliefs, awareness about it is also poor. Mental health specialists are mainly concentrated in India’s southern states and urban centres. The ‘treatment gap’ is large, especially in rural areas. And the COVID-19 pandemic has only added to the problem.

The stigma attached to mental illness is one of the main reasons behind those with issues reluctant to seek help – especially among disadvantaged groups. The cost of treatment is another factor, and to help marginalised communities, NGOs have stepped in as providers of mental healthcare. Here are 10 nonprofits that are reaching out to underserved people with mental disorders.

Mindroot Foundation

Established in 2016 in Jaipur, Rajasthan, Mindroot Foundation combats illness caused by mental conditions and substance abuse by spreading awareness in society with the main goal of ending stigma. The organisation believes that people facing mental health disorders should be comfortable discussing their problems without being judged by those around them.

Mindroot Foundation organizes mental-well being events for school children

Mindroot Foundation organises seminars, workshops and events at regular intervals to educate people about the importance of mental well-being. Focus groups that include school students, villagers, professionals in banks, etc. are given the necessary training to improve the quality of mental health and life. It also has a platform for people suffering from mental disorders to share their stories and offers effective strategies to deal with problems. To support Mindroot Foundation, you can donate here.

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The MINDS Foundation

This Telangana-based NGO has a grassroots approach to eliminate the stigma attached to mental health disorders by providing educational, medical and moral support for patients, especially in rural areas.

The Minds Foundation's social workers organise camps in rural areas

Delivering mental health education to youth is an important programme of Minds Foundation as it covers topics such as autism, OCD, depression, anxiety, self-image, suicide, cyber-bullying, substance/alcohol abuse, eating disorders and internet addiction. The NGO also runs health education classes for teachers and parents. The Minds Foundation has a large network of social workers who organise camps in rural areas where people with mental health issues are provided free treatment. To support The Minds Foundation, you can donate here.

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Started in 2016, LonePack is a community movement led by a group of young engineering students to create awareness on and combat mental health issues among Indian youth. The NGO’s mission is to shatter the stigma around it and start an open dialogue about mental disorders in a safe and inclusive environment.

Lonepack raises awareness on the importance of mental wellness in schools and colleges

The NGO organises campaigns, events and workshops in schools, colleges and corporates to raise awareness on the importance of mental wellness. In the past two years, it had an outreach of over 40,000 people across the country. Its programme, LonePack Buddy, offers an anonymous peer-to-peer support system where people can safely open-up about their mental issues. LonePack’s motto is to make mental health accessible to all. To support LonePack, you can donate here.

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The Banyan

Based in Chennai, The Banyan provides care for those who are homeless, impoverished and are suffering with mental health issues. Their work is mainly in the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Maharashtra. The services include hospital-based care, housing in rural and urban neighbourhoods and community and clinic-based mental health solutions.

The Banyan provides care for the homeless and poor individuals with mental health

The Banyan focuses on transformative social justice and their efforts ensure that homeless people with mental conditions make journeys back to families, re-enter work, reclaim social relationships and pursue lives of their choosing. Its programmes include sponsoring doctors and psychiatrists for in-house patients. The Banyan operates rural as well as urban clinics, rescuing and serving mentally challenged patients. To support The Banyan, you can donate here.

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DoctorsForSeva Arogya Foundation (Aarogya Seva)

Seva is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘selfless service’ and this nonprofit is determined to get as many volunteers as possible to do just that. Aarogya Seva is dedicated to providing quality healthcare services to various segments of society through micro-volunteering.

Aarogya Seva has reached over 100,000 beneficiaries through its mental health services

The NGO provides a platform for all sectors of the healthcare industry – including pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, private practitioners, and healthcare service providers of all specialities – to serve patients in marginalised communities across the country. Aarogya Seva has reached over 100,000 beneficiaries so far and hopes to touch one million lives in the next two years with its army of 25,000 volunteers.

Its ‘Mental Health Initiative’ is a holistic approach promoting awareness about mental health related issues and it also provides medical support and believes in stamping out stigma and ending the discrimination of people with mental illness. To support DoctorsForSeva Arogya Foundation (Aarogya Seva), you can donate here

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SEARCH (Society for Education, Action and Research in Community Health, Gadchiroli)

SEARCH is a 34-year-old non-profit organisation working across 150 rural and tribal villages to help vulnerable, semi-tribal and deprived communities in the Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra.

SEARCH organisation's vision is to achieve 'Aarogya Swaraj

Gadchiroli has just one mental health professional for every 120,170 people in the district. Looking at the acute need for intervention in the area, the nonprofit embarked on a journey to deliver state-of-the-art psychiatric care to vulnerable rural and tribal communities of the district in 2016. Its clinic in the district provides diagnosis and treatment, counselling services and even telephone consultations and follow-ups.

The organisation’s vision is to achieve ‘Aarogya Swaraj’, empowering individuals and communities to take charge of their own health and help them achieve freedom from disease and dependence. To support SEARCH, you can donate here.

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Jan Sahas Social Development Society

Started in 2000, Jan Sahas – meaning People’s Courage – was initially focused on awareness and community empowerment to end manual scavenging. Over the years they broadened the scope to fight forced labour, gender, caste and sexual violence, and to improve mental needs of those in need of help.

Jan Sahas provides access to mental health care at grass-roots level

Jan Sahas has an in-house counselling unit with an aim to foster resilience among the communities it works with and also ensures that their access to care at the grassroots level is adequate. Under this initiative, over 7,000 women and children have received direct counselling services. The organisation has over 400 ‘Barefoot counsellors’ (mental health caregivers) trained at providing counselling support at the community level. Jan Sahas works in 68 districts (directly in 48 districts and indirectly in 20 additional districts) in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi NCR and Bihar. To support Jan Sahas Social Development Society, you can donate here.

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White Swan Foundation for Mental Health

The Delhi-based nonprofit collaborates with experts, persons with lived experiences, like-minded individuals and organisations across the world to deliver the best-in-class knowledge on mental health in India.

White Swan Foundation works to raise awareness through a focus on our well-researched and tailored content

The NGO primarily works to raise awareness through a focus on well-researched and tailored content reaching various communities. Their aim is to provide patients, caregivers and others with well-researched content that will help them make informed decisions on how to deal with mental health issues. To support White Swan Foundation for Mental Health, you can donate here.

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Samvedna Society for Mental Health

This organisation working in the field has been providing its services since 2002 through its charitable polyclinic in Makanpur village, Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh. It provides affordable and easily accessible healthcare to the families of migrant workers and daily wage earners in the area. 

Samvedna provides affordable and easily accessible healthcare to the families of migrant workers

Besides mental health services, the polyclinic offers primary healthcare services too. It has a physician, paediatrician, gynaecologist, ENT specialists, dentist and a clinical laboratory to help the community with timely medical needs and ensure proper medical care during emergencies. Its counsellors played an important role during the COVID-19 pandemic to address the health needs of children. To support Samvedna Society for Mental Health, you can donate here

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Founded in 1996, Ashadeep works in the North-Eastern states of India with a mission to help people with mental disorders through rehabilitation support. For individuals with intellectual disabilities, Ashadeep focuses on training them in daily living activities, functional academics, vocational training, sports, music and conventional academics.

Ashadeep works in the North-Eastern states of India with a  mission to help people with mental disorders through rehabilitation

The organisation also runs two rehabilitation homes for homeless people with mental illness (Navachetana and Udayan). More than 650 homeless mentally ill have been housed and treated in the rehabilitation homes, of which 550 have been reintegrated with their families. To support Ashadeep, you can donate here.

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This blog was updated in May 2023.

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