ACMI's mission is to ensure stigma-free pathways for afflicted persons to cope and receive care by:
- Analyzing the deficits of rights and trust in the existing law, policy, programs and other facilities
- Highlighting the family care model as the third alternative to institutional and community care
Action for Mental Illness (ACMI) India is an advocacy initiative working for the rights and needs of persons with mental illness. It was founded in 2003 as a not-for-profit charitable trust by Mrs. Laila Ollapally, Advocate, Karnataka High Court, and Dr. Nirmala Srinivasan, disability activist and Ashoka Fellow.
ACMI is dedicated to advocacy for policy, legal and service delivery issues relating to mental illness in a pan-India framework. Unlike a service delivery NGO, ACMI is a lobbying forum to bring about macro-level change in all aspects related to the rights and needs of persons with mental illness and their families. Advocacy followed by action have become the hallmark of ACMI, impacting 60-70 million Indians with mental illness and disorders, most of whom are yet to access treatment.
Through this approach, a variety of innovative projects have been carried out, ranging from advocacy for emergency ambulatory services (described below), to establishment of care centers for people who cannot afford private facilities, to implementation of a “3E” (empowerment, enablement, enlightenment) model for supporting families affected by mental illness. ACMI recently launched a national forum called Families Alliance on Mental Illness (FACEMI), creating a platform for families to build awareness, advocate and take action.
Advocacy as a Tool to Improve Services
The emergency ambulatory services project is one example of the advocacy work ACMI carries out to ensure that the needs of people living with mental illness in Bangalore are adequately met. In India, provision of mental health services is conventionally predicated on a caregiver bringing a symptomatic patient to the health facility, sometimes through deceptive or painful means of coercion. The goal of this project was to offer a safe, rights-based, legally sound and dignified method for shifting patients in need of crisis support to the hospital.
For eight years, ACMI advocated for emergency ambulatory psychiatric services to link communities to facility-based care. One of the goals of ACMI was to set a precedent for this service to be provided by the government, for better sustainability and options for scale-up. This service, which was not available anywhere else in India, was finally implemented in 2009 with funding from HP Bangalore, Amend SHG and Rotary Bangalore West.
Now, trained mental health staff from a government mental health helpline centre respond to distress calls from any family caregiver in the city of Bangalore. The staff visit the home and complete a consent form, which was drawn up jointly by ACMI and the State Mental Health. The team speaks with the patient to assess his/her condition and need for further help, and accompanies him or her to the hospital of his/her choice, offering further legal assistance for involuntary patients. The service continues to be run by the government.
- Government Ministries of Social Justice/Empowerment, Health and Education (HRD Ministry) for PWDs
- Other NGOs and rural grassroots leaders in rural clinics
- Private corporate CSR cells
- Donor agencies (e.g. Action Aid)