Completed Research

Atmiyata: Addressing Mental Distress in India

University of Melbourne

In Gujarat, India, NGO Atmiyata has successfully scaled a community-led approach to addressing youth mental health. Listed as one of the World Health Organization’s 25 good practices for community outreach mental health services, the program relies upon an expansive network of trained volunteers to facilitate psychosocial support and reduce mental health stigma amongst rural populations.

With continued implications for the promotion of Sustainable Development Goal 3 in rural settings, this case study will explore how Atmiyata has successfully scaled, and retained quality control, of volunteer-led public health initiatives.

Hard to Reach

People experiencing mental health conditions in the western state of Gujarat.

Key Takeaways

Atmiyata’s community-led intervention has implications for global development practice, with insights that can be applied to projects in different geographic and cultural contexts. It demonstrates that:

  1. If you’re going to work with marginalized communities, building long-term, genuine relationships is the best way to overcome stigma and create trust
  2. To address mental health, it’s vital to consider how a person’s circumstances and relationships impact their well-being
  3. To address nuanced challenges for different communities, interventions must be creative, flexible, and able to adapt
  4. A significant barrier to long-term sustainability is short-term, grant-based funding


We thank the Reach Alliance, Adrian Little, and the University of Melbourne, Kindred (Steve Fisher, Kirsty McKellar, Maria Rodrigues), Rojin Rahmati, and Jacqueline Larson (University of Toronto) for their support throughout this project. We offer a special thanks to the Centre for Mental Health Law and Policy (CMHLP) based at the Indian Law Society in Pune, India, and their team who have made this research possible: Jasmine Kahla, Kaustubh Joag, Nitish Narkhedkar, Palak Korde, Mitesh Prajapati, and Manisha Shastri. In particular, we thank and honor the work of the hundreds of volunteer champions supporting India’s hard-to-reach populations with access to mental health support. This research project, including fieldwork, was vetted and received approval by the Ethics Review Committee of the University of Melbourne.