The Crusader of Mental Health

Prasanna Counseling Center

In 1979, Ajit Kumar started Hindu Seva Pratisthana to help the disadvataged and people with special needs. Young volunteers were trained to carry out programs of livelihood training, adult education, health, counseling, propagation of yoga and Sanskrit, rehabilitation of the mentally retarded, physically handicapped and street children. He wanted to train the volunteers of this NGO in psychological counseling to enable them provide counseling services.

Ajit entrusted the task of co-coordination to Ms. M. C. Pankaja, an experienced teacher from Hombegowda School and a trained lay-counselor. She knew CRC from his work in training teachers and his talks to students. She invited CRC and Prof. Malvika Kapoor , who was a child psychologist in NIMHANS, to join the project. Dr Isac Mohan, who was working in community mental health unit in NIMHANS, also joined them. They advertized a training program for lay counselors in newspapers and spread the word in NGOs and other voluntary organizations. The first batch of 16 persons was trained for three months. Twelve of these volunteers opted to continue their training; they were given practical training through case presentation for one year. It was then realized that these volunteers needed practical training in a live setting, where they could meet and counsel people. To fulfill this need, Prasanna Counseling Center was started in December 1981. Those who completed the training were expected to volunteer as counselors in Prasanna center.

Later, the training schedule became once a week for 10 months, with a total duration of 60 hours. Currently each batch has 50 to 70 participants, half of whom complete the course and join as volunteers in the center or provide counseling in their communities. About half of the people join the training to solve their own problems.
The issues for which people come to the center are learning problems of children, fear of examinations and forgetting lessons, behavior problems of adolescents, marital issues, mental disorders, alcoholism, drug addiction, and occupation related stress. The center is open 6 days of the week; on all days at least one psychiatrist from NIMHANS or Victoria Hospital is available. The patients are first counseled and then referred to the doctor.
Rajeshwari underwent the counselors training in Prasanna center. For about five years she went with CRC to the center every Wednesday and worked as a counselor. Concerned that her mother-in-law was being left alone at home, she stopped coming to the center. CRC has been consulting at the Center on Wednesday evenings. Pankaja, who is around 81 years old, has been managing the center since its inception.

The institution presently runs four projects—Prasanna Counseling Centre, Training Program for Counselors, Child Guidance Clinic and School Mental Health Program for Teachers. By the beginning of year 2016, the center has trained 2700 people in counseling and has helped thousands of people.