Message from the Ex-Chairperson

amit diasThis year we complete twenty glorious years since Sangath was established. As we do so, we renew our commitment to develop better evidence-based services and models for care for all the people, especially those in the low and middle-income countries. As l look down memory lane, l am extremely grateful to the founding members for their vision. We are also grateful to all our sponsors, partners and each and every member of team Sangath.  we have been working in close partnership with the Ministry of Health in India, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK, the Public Health Foundation of India, Directorate of Health Services and the Government of Goa. l must put on record my sincere gratitude to our members who served on the Managing committee over the years, particularly to Professor Vikram Patel who is the co- founder of Sangath and the longest serving member of the managing committee. It is due to his vision and leadership that we have achieved what we have. At Sangath, we recognise that it is our duty to share the knowledge with like-minded people, disseminate our research findings and promote leadership in Mental Health. Last year we successfully conducted the 9th annual course on Leadership in Mental Health, which once again attracted participants from around the globe. We have also introduced the Barefoot Counselling course for the first time this year. ln the years to come we will be laying greater emphasis on skill-based training programmes, research, awareness generation and advocacy.

From our humble inception in 1996, we have grown into a leading organisation in the area of public health. We started as an organisation to support families with children with developmental problems and provide clinical services to the local community. Over the years we realised the need to develop services in the area of child health, youth and adolescent health, and adult mental health, we have moved forward with innovative programmes for families of children with autism; students in schools; and people suffering from alcohol problems, depression, anxiety, severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia and postpartum depression among others. We have recently added geriatric health as the latest segment of our services which addresses conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and depression in late life.

In 2010 we moved beyond the boundaries of Goa with our project named DELIVER {for mental health care} in Karnataka. Ever since then, we have worked in seven states and are currently running projects in Haryana, Bihar, Maharashtra, Delhi besides Goa. With the DIL project (Depression in Late Life) we have now ventured in the realm of prevention of mental illness. We are also looking forward to developing better services models using technology for bridging the mental health treatment gap. We have successfully used technology in our INFORM project for children and we will be using it in our new service to address mental illness in adolescents through our PRIDE Project.  Today we have over 200 people working for team Sangath.

The World Health Organisation estimates the number of people with mental and behavioural disorders worldwide to be a staggering 450 million, which literally means that one in four people will develop one or more of these disorders during their lifetime. In India, conservative estimates state that we will have around 50 million people with mental health problems.  However, in contrast, we do not have the adequate number of mental health professionals to address the current need for treatment. Over the last twenty years, Sangath has been working in the area of training alternate health care workers and counsellors and developing evidence-based innovative intervention programmes. Our approach, based on a collaborative framework and delivered by lay health workers has been successful in bridging the mental health treatment gap for various health problems such as common mental illness, across the age spectrum of life and making mental health services more accessible and affordable.

This year we successfully organised a mental health film festival and several awareness campaigns such as the Autism Awareness walk as part of our annual Light it up Blue campaign for Autism awareness. This year we also hosted the first National Conference on Bridging the Mental Health Treatment Gap with the aim of getting like-minded people together and join the campaign to develop the world which is more friendly and sensitive towards people with mental illness.

Over the years, we received several awards in recognition of our research and services. In 2008, we were awarded the MacArthur Foundation International Prize for Creative & Effective Institutions which helped us purchase our own premises in Succor. We also won the Mother Teresa award from the Department of Art & Culture, Government of Goa. We were recognised as India’s 4th leading public health research institute in 2015. In April 2016, Sangath was given the World Health Organization’s Public Health Champion award for outstanding contribution to public health in the country. This year, Professor Charles Reynolds, renowned geriatric psychiatrist and one of our collaborators won the prestigious Pardes Humanitarian Prize in Mental Health (together with Professor Vikram Patel) and decided to donate the entire prize money to Sangath. The generous donation will be utilised to build the much needed Centre for Aging Research and Education {CARE} in Goa.

The last twenty years have been extremely encouraging and rewarding. We have been constantly challenging ourselves and innovating as we march forward. In Sangath we believe that it’s not just about having ideas, but making ideas happen, which makes the difference. Together with your support, we will continue our mission with renewed dedication.

Sangath Ascho


-Amit Dias