Mukul Goswami, the founder of Ashadeep was a banker at State Bank of India. He was born and brought up in Shillong, and moved to Guwahati, Assam in 1987. “It was somewhere around 1982 when my second younger sister suffered from Schizophrenia. Initially, we thought it might be a temporary change of behaviour and would pass. We never took it seriously because we were not aware of what mental illness meant,” says Mukul.
When it was obvious that she wasn’t behaving ‘normally’ for quite some time, he took her to a neurologist who said it was not his area of work. Thereafter he took herto a psychiatrist who gave her some medicines. “With those medicines, her condition stabilized. Her symptoms decreased and she started to go back to the school. We thought she had recovered and discontinued the medicines,” he adds.
In 1986, his sister had a major relapse. It became chronic and they didn’t know how to handle it. “When my wife and I did some research, we found out about NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences) Bangalore. We took her there and she was diagnosed as a severe schizophrenic. After treatment and medication, she was discharged and we got her back to Assam,” he explains. He continued his sister’s treatment and her rehabilitation at home with support from his wife Anjana Goswami, who is a co-founder of the organization.
“My sister was the reason for Ashadeep to come up. I thought that we could at least afford this medication and travel to good hospitals but what about people who couldn’t afford the same. There was no rehabilitation centre or institution for persons with mental disorders in Assam. In 1996, we started Ashadeep. We didn’t have a structure then; we just taught them weaving, stitching etc” adds Mukul. This was Ashadeep’s day Rehabilitation Centre for children and adults with intellectual disability and persons with mental illness. Since then, Ashadeep has initiated services which cater to those who do not have access to mental health interventions due to social, economical and geographical disadvantages. Rehabilitation Homes for Homeless Persons with Mental Illness and Community based Mental Health Programmes are some of the unique initiatives of the organization in the northeastern region.
When asked about funding, Mukul says “Our first grant was from Rashtriya Gramin Vikash Nidhi. They gave us a grant of Rs.1,00,000 in 2001.
In 2012, the Government of Assam partnered with Ashadeep to set up rehabilitation home for homeless men with mental illness based on the ‘Navachetana’ model of rehabilitation for women which was initiated in 2005.