The organization’s beginnings started from a heart-warming experience of one of its founders – Vandana Gopikumar who was then a student pursuing a graduate program Social work. One afternoon, Vandana saw a homeless woman who was mentally-ill and naked in front of her college, this prompted her compassionate spirit to look for an institution that can accommodate the woman. To Vandana’s surprise, even mental health institutions and known NGO’s refused to take care of the woman. The realization that the poorest and marginalized women of Chennai were left on their own triggered Vandana to organize Banyan.
The Organization aims to act as an agent of change by raising awareness on critical issues in mental health. In addition to this, Banyan temporarily shelters mentally-ill women for rehabilitation until the time that they can safely go back to their families. Banyan’s philosophy of empowerment has effectively reoriented the community by teaching it to be responsible for its people.
“…. Banyan still cares, treats and rehabilitates homeless women with mental health difficulties but it also uses this as a template to demonstrate to the government and other initiatives what is possible…” ( idealist.org )
The establishment of Banyan was one way of addressing a growing problem in public health – an increased incidence of psychiatric disorders that affect society (Murray &. Lopez, 1996). Surprisingly, Banyan has a vision and philosophy but no mission statement. Nevertheless, Banyan reflects its mission clearly in its activities which guides the people behind the organization. Banyan’s activities include the support to the training of young scientists on the field of mental health, the building of centers that will cater to mentally-ill women, provision of medical care in communities, monitoring the progress of rehabilitated women from the centers, and providing legal aid that will facilitate issuing of Reception Orders.