Mukul Goswami, the founder of Ashadeep - an NGO associated with GiveIndia, recently won a much deserved Padma Shree.
A banker by profession, Mukul Goswami’s involvement with the issue of mental health started in 1983 when his younger sister was affected with schizophrenia, a major mental disorder at the tender age of fourteen years. A concerted effort by the Goswami family was undertaken for over twelve years, when they travelled to different locations across the country in trying to find the best possible interventions for restoring their affected family member back into the mainstream of life did yield positive results.
At that point of time in Assam, there were little to no services available for the Psycho-social treatment rehabilitation for persons with mental disorders.
To remove this vacuum in the field of Psychiatric rehabilitation Mukul Goswami together with his wife Anjana started Ashsadeep in the year 1996, with the ultimate objective of reaching out to people across the State with holistic mental health care.
From a humble beginning, a ‘Day Rehabilitation Centre for persons with mental illness and intellectual disabilities’ initiated from their own residential house at Guwahati, the Goswamis developed rehabilitation services in different modes and settings to cater to the varied needs of persons with mental disorders. Over the years (1996 to 2004), a Sheltered workshop providing employment for those recovering from mental illnesses, a Half way Home for residential rehabilitation, Outdoor Clinic for the urban poor, a telephonic helpline for people in emotional distress and a Resource centre for creating awareness on the issue were set up by Ashadeep in Guwahati.
Since his tryst with the issues surrounding mental health, Mukul Goswami has continuously delved on the contextual needs of persons with mental disorders as their needs have always been overlooked. Henceforth, each program of Ashadeep was devised accordingly.
In this context, Goswami identified ‘homeless persons with mental disorders’ wandering on the streets of Guwahati (a common phenomena across the country) as most vulnerable, and further they have been ignored by most welfare initiatives of the State and also Civil society. Given this, a major leap was taken by Ashadeep in the year 2005, when Rehabilitation of Homeless Women with Mental Illness was initiated. This initiative, one of the very few of its kind in the country evolved a model where over 450 women with mental illness were admitted from the streets of Guwahati and after going through a rehabilitation process over 400 of them have been re-integrated with their families even at far away locations such as Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa, Jharkhand, UP, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Today, a woman with a mental disorder wandering on the streets, a common sight in most places across the country is a rare sight in Guwahati.
An acknowledgement of the efficacy of this model is reflected in the fact that today the Assam Government is associating with Ashadeep to provide similar services to homeless men with mental disorders wandering on the streets. Further , Mukul Goswami is an active member of the policy group of the State Government in creating similar systems in each district through a collaborative effort between various relevant departments and civil society. This ‘Standard Operating procedure’ for rehabilitation of homeless persons is a pioneering effort of the Assam Government in the whole country.
The availability of Psychiatrists in hardly half the districts of Assam was a huge hurdle in creating access to treatment for the population in the uncovered districts. To create support systems in these areas, Mukul Goswami formulated the Outreach mode, where by associating with Primary Health centres and NGOs in nine districts, access to regular care and treatment were created even where a Government Psychiatrist was not available. A major proportion of the six thousand plus persons covered were in the 4districts of the Bodo territorial Council, which were obviously more vulnerable to mental health problems due to recent conflict.
In 2012, this outreach model was modified into Community Mental Health program which is a more intensive approach and being implemented in Sipajhar, Mayong, and Boko block of Assam. It is aimed at empowering the community as a whole on issues related to mental health.
His constant intervention makes him truly worthy of a Padma Shree and we hope to see him achieve a lot more in this field.