Six months exchange programme in India

Visit by Mr Gabor Gombos, Mental health & Human Rights scholar and activist from Hungary, June 2008 - November 2008

The Bapu Trust for Research on Mind & Disourse is facilitating a 6 month visit by Mr Gábor Gombos, from Hungary. Gábor Gombos, a former theoretical physicist and survivor of psychiatry, has become a world-renowned advocate for the rights of persons with psycho-social disabilities. For over a decade, and until 2006, he chaired Hungary’s only network of user organisations (Hungarian Mental Health Interest Forum). During this time he liased with self-advocacy groups and local user NGOs with the relevant authorities, including local municipalities, members of the Parliament and the national govenment. The Forum had gained official recognition by the legislature and local and central policy makers while maintaining its grassroots character. Gábor focussed his efforts to train self-advocates and local advocacy groups. He and the Forum has extensively contributed to recent legislative reforms in Hungary, including the legal ban on the cage beds that had been widely used in psychiatric facilities to restrain people. He also contributed to relevant amendments to the social care act and to the development of standards for alternative, non-coercive, community-based services for persons with psychosocial disabilities.

The Mental Disability Advocacy Center in Hungary advances the human rights of children and adults with actual or perceived intellectual or psycho-social (mental health) disabilities. Focusing on Europe and central Asia, they use a combination of law and advocacy to promote equality and social integration. Gábor is Senior Advocacy Officer at MDAC, leading their intergovernmental and national level advocacy. In this role he has extensively advised intergovernmental bodies, such as the Council of Europe, the European Commission and the United Nations on disability rights issues and has participated as a delegate of the civil society in the work of the UN Ad Hoc Committee which drafted the new Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Gábor was profiled in the project, Speak Truth to Power as one of the 51 select leading human rights defenders around the globe. He is a Fellow of Ashoka: the Global Association of Leading Social Entrepreneurs. Internationally, Gábor acted as chair of the European Network of (ex-)Users and Survivors of Psychiatry, a European umbrella of national NGOs of persons with psychosocial disabilities until 2004. Currently he serves as deputy chair and regional board member for Central Europe. Between 2001 and 2003 he extensively worked as a consultant in Kosovo to help self-advocacy initiatives.

Need for this exchange:

Persons living with a mental illness can be the best advocates for themselves as well as for their peers. This potential is hindered by many obstacles, each of them rooted in the stigma associated with disabilites in general and with psychosocial disabilities in particular. Discrimination against persons living with a mental illness affect every aspect of private and public life. Having a psychosocial disability or even a family member with such a disability is a taboo in many societies including India. In most societies persons with psychosocial disabilites belong to the most marginalised, disenfrenchised, disempowered groups of people, who are kept invisible, whose voice is not heard and not listened to.
While in India important steps have been made by a number of disability rights activists, human rights defenders and academics working in the field, the movement of self-advocates, advocates who are persons living with mental illness themselves, has not yet started. India has much potential to approach psychosocial disability in an innovative way, partly based on its traditional healing, spiritual sensitivity, and the like.

The objectives of the international exchange:

Gábor Gombos’ work in India has the following objectives:

- To create a non-combative, safe environment where public discourse on the need for and viability of self-advocacy of persons living with a mental illness is encouraged.
- To facilitate such a discourse in different settings and with different stakeholders.
- To engage as much as possible in this short period of time, with the in-country processes of CRPD implementation with respect to various Acts and laws.
- To develop and test training and audio visual materials that can be used by Bapu Trust to train supporters and future self-advocates.
- To inform stakeholders on the issues by doing the activities, including speaking arrangements, lectures, media appearances and the like. All these objectives are planned to be realised through a collaborative and participatory process.

Plans for Gábor’s visit

Gábor aims to work with a wide diversity of constituencies in the mental health sector while he is here. We are looking for collaborations where Gabor can actively interact with groups of users and survivors of psychiatry, and other mental health sector leaders. He will develop and conduct workshops on Self advocacy for persons with psychosocial disabilities, for various mental health constituencies. Training programs for care givers using the Self Advocacy model is also being considered. The Bapu Trust is also happy to receive collaborative proposals for public lectures and seminars from research and training institutions, particularly relating to the CRPD, on which he has expertise. Strategic or policy level meetings, consultations in different parts of the country with legal, research and human rights institutions would also benefit from his contributions.

Write to us:

During his visit, Gábor Gombos is working in close collaboration with Bhargavi V Davar and Amita Dhanda. Bhargavi Davar [Ashoka Fellow] has extensively used the medium of writing to bring visibility to the situation of people with psychosocial disabilities and to advocate for structural reform. She has a self identity as user / survivor and has used multiple methods (research, trainings and campaigns) to fight coercive practices within the Indian mental health system. She is an active member of the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry, a global coalition for user rights. She is editor of a newsletter called Aaina (meaning ‘Reflections’), which facilitates user empowerment in India, and human rights issues in the field of mental health. Along with Dr Amita Dhanda, she started the Bapu Trust, a national organisation which is using a multi pronged approach to influence change within the mental health system in India. Bhargavi Davar is director of various research projects and campaigns at the Pune office, both regional as well as national / international. The organisation also runs a non-medical recovery program for psychosocial disabilities, using psychotherapeutic and art based mediums. Amita Dhanda finished her Ph.D. from the University of Delhi, critically examining the laws relating to mental illness. She served 15 years at the Indian Law Institute, New Delhi. She is a Professor of Law at the National Academy for Legal Studies and Research [NALSAR] in Hyderabad, India. She is an internationally known legal expert, researcher and advocate, focussing her work on Disability laws, particularly in the context of psychosocial disabilities. She has published several books and edited volumes, including Legal Order / Mental disorder [Sage Publications, 2000]. She has served on and led important judicial and policy commissions, such as the Commission for Inquiry into the condition of custodial institutions in West Bengal. She was Chairperson of the National Amendment Committee of the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995. She has fully participated as a civil society representative in the Ad Hoc Committee Meetings of the India ratified, United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. She is founder trustee of the Bapu Trust for Research on Mind & Discourse, India.

Contact address of all collaborating partners:
Gábor Gombos, gombosg@yahoo.com, ggombos@mdac.info
Bhargavi Davar, bvdavar@gmail.com, info@camhindia.org
Amita Dhanda, amitadhanda@gmail.com
Organisational support for the Exchange: Bapu Trust for Research on Mind & Discourse, India. HQ: Survey No. 50/4, Plot No. 9, Kapil Villa, Ground Floor, Kondhwa Khurd, Pune 411 028 (T): 0091-20-26837644, 26837647
Administrative contact at Bapu: Ms Yogita Kulkarni, Senior Team Service staff.
Email id: info@camhindia.org, wamhc@dataone.in
URL: www.camhindia.org

1 comment:

Csilla said...

Dear Gabor,
Your news are very interesting and powerful for me!!
Congratulations from Budapest,
Csilla Szauer