Vandana Gopikumar to be rewarded for her work on mental health in India

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Vandana Gopikumar (Courtesy: nursing.upenn.edu)

Indian American Vandana Gopikumar will be receiving the 2018 Penn Nursing Renfield Foundation Award for Global Women’s Health along with a $100,000 cash prize, at the University of Pennsylvania on Mar. 21, for her work in helping women with mental health problems in India, according to a press release.

Gopikumar is the Co-Founder of The Banyan, which was started as a response to the visible gaps in care and attention for homeless women with mental health problems and The Banyan Academy of Leadership in Mental Health, which focuses on developing partnerships with the government, civil organizations, universities, and individuals to further the development of mental health services in the region, according to a press release.

“Dr. Gopikumar embodies the very essence of The Renfield Award, which is given to an individual who demonstrates leadership in improving women’s health. Over the past 25 years, she and her team have helped more than ten thousand people with mental health issues in India to reintegrate into society. Her devotion to helping this community is steadfast and tireless. We are happy to recognize her and The Banyan with this much-deserved award,” said Penn Nursing Dean Antonia Villarruel of FAAN.

“It is my honor to have nominated Dr. Gopikumar for the Renfield Award owing to her landmark contributions to the field of mental health and social vulnerabilities in India. Her determination has been instrumental in The Banyan’s journey. It is because of her innovative spirit that new models of mental health care have been created, myths have been erased, and stigmas have been shattered,” said Nachiket Mor, the Director of the India Country Office of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“At The Banyan, the social ecology of mental disorders and the intersections between poverty, gender, other structural barriers and mental health is taken into cognizance, as care packages are customized and models developed, for persons poor and homeless,” Gopikumar states in a press release.

“I’m glad that we are able to influence future strategic direction collaboratively with users of mental health services, local governments and partners who share our vision, to focus on integrated mental health care approaches and emphasize the need for social inclusion,” she continues.

“I hope the Renfield Award, and the large scale awareness it will generate, will influence policy makers around the world by highlighting the correlation between the achievement of sustainable development goals and mental health,” she added.

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