My host in India: the Bapu Trust

Bapu Trust for Research on Mind and Discourse was established as a formal institution in the year 1999. Our project office (Centre for Advocacy in Mental Health www.camhindia.org) was started in August, 2000.

"Bapu" is the personal name of a Tamil woman, who was born of a culturally and materially elite family in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. She heard voices, saw visions, wrote religious verses in Tamil and Sanskrit, and believed herself to be in deep connection with god. She was labeled with "schizophrenia" and ended up wandering on the streets. She was deserted by her family, and struggled for daily survival, even though she came from a very wealthy background and had a huge property and a large family in Chennai. She lived many years of her adult life, wandering and alone, in some healing temples of Kerala. She wrote poetry, sang bhajans, wore the dress of a monk and shaved her head. She drew and painted her visions, sometimes with great flourish and bursts of colour. She was "caught" by the police many times and forcibly brought back to a hostile family environment. She was subjected to many invasive treatments and psychiatric abuse, including lock up, solitary confinement, insulin coma, several dozens of shock treatment, repeated and forced institutionalizations, and many disabling anti-psychotic medications, on a trial and error basis. She suffered severe and debilitating side effects of the treatments, including severe tardive dyskinesia, Parkinson's disease and muscular dysfunction. Various traditional methods were also tried out on her, such as dhara, exorcism, etc. She passed on in the autumn of the year 1996, struck by stroke and coma. One of "Bapu's" two children, Bhargavi Davar, founded the trust in her memory and with her legacy.

Some saw "Bapu" as "mad" and "bad", others saw her as spiritual, creative, intuitive and gifted. Bapu Trust for Research on Mind & Discourse, like "Bapu", journeys the grey areas between madness and creativity, insanity and spirituality.

Bapu Trust does not have any affiliations or connections to political parties of any sort.

Vision [New vision being developed]
In Bapu, we want to see a world, where emotional well-being is experienced in a holistic manner, as an experience of "total wellness". Wellness is not just being symptom free, but being deeply connected with one's inner source of creativity, joy and freedom. Bapu dreams of therapeutic environments in the world, where every person can reach into and use their own capacity to make choices, heal themselves, recover and move on. Such environments will also be rich in love, warmth and nurturance, and will enable people's higher aspirations for growth, pleasure, joy and creativity, using compassionate, non-violent, non-hazardous and playful means. Bapu sees and partakes of a world of healing environments, based on a philosophy of care, freedom and fairness.

Mission [Being developed]
We will create, pilot and monitor programs and interventions that enable self-reliance and a life of dignity, among persons with psycho-social and psychiatric disabilities. Such programs will connect with people's aspirations and potential, and promote their positive mental health. We will work towards enhancing and promoting the emotional well being of persons in vulnerable positions (women, poor, children) and other communities in need. We will create innovative preventive programs in the community, so that the burden of psychological ill health in the community is reduced. We will strive to change the structural, social, legal and policy environment, so that they remain just and fair to people with a psycho-social disability. We will work with people with psycho-social and psychiatric disabilities, so that they can get good quality mental health care and can live in an unbiased society, with knowledge, understanding, dignity, self-determination and self-respect. We will fight unfair, forced or abusive mental health interventions. We will strive to keep our own work environments, program areas and working team spaces caring and mental health enhancing.

Scope of our work
Bapu Trust is a group of academics, researchers, advocates and healers, working towards creating alternative visions and streams of practice, in mental health care in India, which is presently dominated by biomedicine.
The Trust is the only national level organization totally devoted, in its programs and activities, to critically questioning the bio-medical model widely practiced in India. We are committed to an empirical approach to consumer empowerment and we conduct mental health advocacy research. We research on service development, gender studies, policy studies, legal research and human rights based action research in mental health. Bapu brings a humanistic, developmental and rights based approach to mental health work. Bapu is an innovative program developer in community mental health. At present, we have developed Seher, a psychotherapy program and are in the process of developing Setu, a program for the homeless mentally ill based on therapeutic community model. Bapu is a capacity building resource organization, working closely and co-operatively with grass roots organizations and NGOs on the one hand, and with civil society institutions, mental health professionals, and the government on the other, in implementing its vision.

Bapu was founded by Dr. Bhargavi V Davar. It was co-founded by Dr. Amita Dhanda, a professor of law at NALSAR, a Central University of Law, sited in Hyderabad. Dr. Dhanda has been a teacher - researcher - activist, with various publications to her credit on the interphase between poverty, law, mental health and disability. She has been on various consultations and progressive forums, aiming to make structural changes in the mental health and the disability sector. Other co-founders were Mr. Pramod Kumar Davar, Ms. Sujata Venkatraman and Mr S D Verma, who have since left the Trust, due to other commitments. At present, other trustees of Bapu are:
Dr. Raghu Rama Raju, Reader (Philosophy), Central University, Hyderabad;
Ms Lakshmi Rao Buchamma, educationist and teacher, Hyderabad;
Dr. Sadhana Natu, activist and teacher, Dept. of Psychology, Modern College, Pune.
All the trustees have a background of several years of sound research, high intellectual outputs as well as a history of participation in diverse and progressive forums for social change.
Bapu staff, working at CAMH, are social science researchers (background in sociology, archaeology, political science, psychology, women's studies), social workers, psychotherapists and counselors.
Bapu Trust has a representation of persons with users and ex-users of mental health services among its Board members as well as staff, though not equal representation at this moment.

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