ATMIYATA: An innovative approach to improving access to mental health and social care in community-based settings

Funded by: Grand Challenges Canada: Global Mental Health Programs; Mariwala Health Initiative



Mental ill health is a substantial public health burden in India. Approximately 150 million people in India suffer from some form of mental illness. The paucity of professionals, stigma for mental health results in a growing disparity to access mental health care despite the clear and growing need. This contributes to the startling mental health care gap for mental illness in India. National Mental Health Survey (2016) shows 80 to 85 % treatment gap for various mental health problems in India, condemning large numbers to poverty, isolation, ill-health and disability.

Innovation- Atmiyata

The Atmiyata approach is distinct, but complementary to the public health sector, as it is a , referral for persons with common and severe mental disorders.

Atmiyata volunteers, called Champions, identify and offer evidence-based interventions of low intensity counselling for people with common mental disorders, at their doorstep. Champions also link people with severe mental health disorders with public mental health services and help them access social benefits. Based on ‘narrow casting ‘model using short films loaded on smart phones, champions also work to raise awareness about mental health problems in their communities. Atmiyata is sustainable as we train, mentor and support local community volunteers to work as ‘Atmiyata Champions’. The Champions select and train ‘another set of volunteers called ‘Mitra’ who help Champion in intra-village coverage. The Champions are supported & mentored by a qualified psychologist and/or psychiatric social worker called the community facilitator. In a way, Atmiyata compliments to District Mental Health Plan (DMHP).

Proof of Concept

Atmiyata was implemented in 41 villages in Peint Block, Nashik District in Maharashatra from 2013 to 2015. In a population of 14000, 59 Atmiyata Champions identified and counselled 1150 (8.2%) persons with common mental disorders, identified 180 (1.3%) persons with severe mental illnesses and linked 121 (67.2% of identified) with public health service, helped 1376 (9.8%) persons access social benefits and showed the short films to 7622 (54%) persons in local population for raising mental health awareness.

Transition to Scale

The project was scaled-up in rural Mahesana district in Gujarat, covering a rural population of 1 million across nearly 600 villages. Till July 2019, we have covered 472 villages and have 15 community facilitators and 580 Champions working in the district. 

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