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Bhargavi V Davar, PhD

bhargavi davarBhargavi comes from a family of users of psychiatric services in India, who have experienced violence and abuse within the system. She works with a strong identity as a survivor, having made conscious choices not to opt for psychiatry even when seriously disabled. Having been exposed to mental hospitals, shock treatment, confinement, etc. since childhood, she is passionate about systematically addressing the human rights gaps within the mental health system in India.

By training a philosopher and social science researcher, Bhargavi finished her Ph.D. from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, in 1993. Her Ph.D. thesis on the Epistemological Foundations of Psychoanalytic Theory was later published by Sage Publications as “Psychoanalysis as a Human Science”. Very active in the women’s movement, she published other books including: “Mental health of Indian women” (Sage, 1999) and “Mental health from a gender perspective” (Sage, 2001), an edited volume. She has since steadily published in several peer reviewed journals and book compilations and have been giving seminars and lectures around the country. Bhargavi is also a published poet and short story writer.

In 1999, Bhargavi started the Bapu Trust for Research on Mind and Discourse, Pune, India, to give public vision and visibility to user/survivor-centred mental health advocacy. Through this organisation, she has developed several critical research projects with high policy impact, such as a 3 year study of traditional healing systems in India. She is a front runner in regional and national level campaigns for human rights in mental health, particularly raising a call to abolish oppressive laws and institutions.

Bhargavi is presently working on two book projects, several research papers and reports linking gender, culture, human rights, development and mental health topics, of relevance to policy building in the sector. She is editor of aaina (meaning “Reflections” or “Mirror”), the only national newsletter for mental health advocacy in India, which has successfully seen 20 issues since 2000. She is a trainer in mental health advocacy and runs a yearly course on gender and mental health in India for the development sector.

She is very happy when she has opportunities to work with people and is an enthusiastic organization developer. She enjoys mentoring researchers, fellow workers, young people as well as international scholars in mental health advocacy. She is a single parent and lives with her 8 year old daughter in Pune. She is an avid alternative mental health seeker, and finds gardening, yoga, meditation, the gym and diet changes very therapeutic.