BALM, TISS and University College London ink pact

The Banyan Academy of Leadership and Management (BALM), Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and the University College London (UCL) signed a memorandum of understanding here on Tuesday.

The MoU seeks to facilitate cross-cultural and cross-national research in the area of mental health, focussing in particular on homelessness, community and mental health hospitals.

As per the agreement, the three partners will also jointly evolve a post-graduate course in public health and social work. On the “USP of the course”, Vandana Gopikumar, co-founder, The Banyan and director, BALM, said that it brought together different perspectives, with the TISS offering a perspective of social work and public health, the UCL of clinical intervention and The Banyan of field experience. The different perspectives gave the course academic rigour and a deep connect with grassroots.

While the strategy or the path to be followed for the research programme and the course was academic in nature, the larger goal was to provide inputs for discussions on policy. “The research and training are clearly directed towards entering policy discussions,” she said.

S. Parasuraman, Director, TISS, said that the entrenchment of poverty and the growing conflicts in India translated in to the growing instances of homelessness and had an impact on mental health issues. The partners would spend the next year developing a comprehensive teaching programme. “We hope to offer an undergraduate and postgraduate programme by next year,” he said.

Michael Worton, vice-provost (academic and international), UCL, said the University was committed to multi-disciplinary work. He emphasised the need to take into account different perspectives before arriving at a larger picture. The MoU, he said, made that possible.

Sharing his observations on some of the broader issues pertaining to public health, Keshav Desiraju, additional secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, said there was a belated realisation about the need for a whole army of well-trained medical professionals.

Mr. Desiraju said that while the contributions of civil society, academia and non-governmental organisations were significant, the state's role was crucial “if we are to see permanent and constructive change.”

Sanjeev Jain, head, Department of Psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences pointed to an increasing inadequacy of services for the dispossessed.

Sushrut Jadhav, academic director, UCL-BALM research and teaching programme, gave an overview of the ongoing collaboration between UCL and BALM. Alok Sarin, trustee, BALM spoke.