NIRMALA SRINIVASAN

Sectors:
Target Population:

Dr Nirmala Srinivasan has been engaged with the cause of persons affected by mental illness and disorders since 1992, focusing on establishing a family-care support model as the foremost base of support.

This profile below was prepared when Nirmala Srinivasan was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship .
RECENT UPDATES

Fellow Sketch 

Dr Nirmala Srinivasan has been engaged with the cause of persons affected by mental illness and disorders since 1992, focusing on establishing a family-care support model as the foremost base of support.  

The prevalence of  severe mental disorders (SMD) is almost 2 per 1000; nearly 13% of youth in age group of 18-35 suffer from depression. 10% of Indians get impacted by common mental disorders such as anxiety and depression. At any given point of time, there are at least 80 million Indians in need of treatment of whom only 10% get treated. The major reasons for this is the non-availability of psychiatric services to these people and the lack of awareness about mental illness. Denied of access to medical information and services, families live through  with the angst and  trauma of  grief, abandonment, exclusion, shame and stigma. 

In October 1992, determined to educate, enlighten and empower family care as the best support model for persons with mental illness (PMIs) to recover, she started an organization, AMEND (Association for Mentally Disabled) to tackle the same. The awareness needs of the members were met by building a databank that included extensive material, covering various aspects including law and human rights. Newsletters were mailed to members containing information on mental illness, list of halfway homes, access to ambulance facilities, home visits of therapists, disability information policy, guidelines for forming a trust and a copy of the persons with disability act, 1996, etc.  Nirmala also designed several training programs to suit the cultural contours of Indian families, tackling various problems like living in harmony, communication skills with users (PMI), daily living skills for Users, handling emergencies, etc. Her constant efforts over the next decade resulted in many achievements of her work, which were recognized by international bodies like WFSAD, WAPR and WPA. In 2005, Indian Psychiatry Society, KA Chapter conferred the Distinguished Service Award for her leadership to AMEND.

On the award of Ashoka Fellowship in 2003, Nirmala changed her strategy from one of family support activities to mental health activism. Recognising the inseparable link between the family and the mentally challenged family member, she embarked on a crusadic mission of restoring family care as the epicenter of mental health care that is reflected in the National MH Policy 2014 and in the legislation(s) as well.  Thus, she could successfully restore the family care model as the foremost base of support for the consideration of the policy makers, officials and legal experts.

The advocacy model has had far reaching impact. Be it Income tax rebate to MI at the national level or ambulance services for psychiatric patients in KA, the list is lengthy;  and is a “battle without battle lines” to record at a given point in time.

Having influenced the policies for the PMIs and their families, Nirmala is back to the families again, but this time at the national level. She started the first national forum for families and PMIs, known as Families Alliance on Mental Illness (FACEMI ), in 2013, which is now spread across the whole of India with an exclusive focus on advocacy lobby to articulate the rights and needs of PMI in all aspects of life. Going by the manner in which Nirmala’s suggestions and proposals are  favourable viewed by the Government, the future seems bright and cheerful  to  dream of FACEMI as an all  India VOICE for mental illness. 

NOTE: This section was updated in April, 2017.