The Center for Advocacy in Mental Health was established in the year 1999. The objectives of the Center are to:
- Build self advocacy movements in India and the Asia Pacific region in the context of the UNCRPD
- Provide a rights-based language for mental health in India
- Create an informed political discourse on Citizenship, Development, and Mental Health
- Address the information gaps and needs of communities on mental health and well being
- Build community based and holistic methods of offering support, and / or healing from (mental) health problems
The CAMH strives, through its work, to research and communicate the main message that mental health and overall well being is social and environmental. The increase in ‘mental illness’ is indicative of the failure of the primary health care system in India. Many mental health problems would resolve if there was no poverty, food insufficiency or malnutrition, and people received excellent comprehensive health care at the doorstep, as promised by the Alma Ata Declaration. The remaining mental health problems would resolve if we had stronger and more compassionate social fabrics where relationships are nurtured and living environments are conflict free.
The CAMH spreads the message of “Peaceful families, Peaceful neighbourhoods” as the foundation for good mental health. The CAMH is led by a survivor of the Indian mental asylums. The Center is inspired by the strengths and resiliences of those living with or who have survived psychosocial disability. The Center includes people with psychosocial disabilities in different capacities (employment, volunteering, peer support services, fellowships on self advocacy, trainers, and contributors to our various partnerships, projects and activities). The Center provides several spaces for men and women who have or have had personal experience of mental illness, including a fantastic library that serves information needs of people with disabilities, researchers, and different kinds of care givers.
The CAMH has a history of human rights activism in mental health. We have created, and led many efforts to build a human rights language for mental health in India. Using methods of Socratic dialogue, and platform building, we have brought multiple stakeholders together, including people in key positions in government; to put forward our research and experiences of ‘first rights holders’; and to speak with a unified voice on the rights of persons living with psychosocial disabilities.
The CAMH has been active in the last 3-4 years in building cross-disability alliances, in the context of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and consolidating a human rights foundation for its work. We are active participants in the present harmonisation efforts of India, to change the policies and laws relating to disabilities and mental health.
The CAMH provides a range of community services. We strive not to stigmatize some persons as ‘severely disturbed’ but include them within the full spectrum of humanity in our peer support and community services. We develop and use a range of methods, including art based therapies, peer support; fitness, diet and lifestyle; story telling; and other community building methods for bringing people together on the topic of well being, mental health and disability.