Institute was started as “Lunatic asylum” in 1845 by British Government in the premises attached to the jail midst of the lush green vegetated 18 acres of land for keeping mentally ill who were discriminated and stigmatized by restraining using chains and secluded from society and family members. Later in 1885 some rooms of the jail were used as wards for keeping patients.
On 25 Sept 1908 Superintendent Engineer of Southern India wrote a letter to superintendent of Bombay province to provide a place to establish mental asylum at Dharwad along with Yerawad (Pune), Colaba, Ratnagiri and Thana. Considering the cold climatic conditions of the region, asylum was established in Dharwad during this period. From records available Collector’s office, Police Superintendent’s office, jail and asylum were within 1.5 km radius. In year 1909, asylum was separated from the jail and a wall around asylum was constructed. Scientific basis of treatment using few available medications and psychological interventions was introduced. In year 1922, British Government declared asylum as “Government Mental Hospital”. Thus, this hospital is the second oldest hospital in south India. After India’s Independence, the hospital was under the additional in-charge of the District Surgeon of Dharwad. In the year 1960, separate hospital staffs were recruited and Late Dr S.M. Channabasavanna was appointed as first medical superintendent of the hospital. He was the first psychiatrist to serve both as a specialist and superintendent during 1960-1963.During this period scientific methods of using Psychotropic’s and ECT was initiated. Outpatient services were started, more and more voluntary admissions were encouraged. During this time outpatient services a Karnataka medical college hospital, Hubli was initiated. The Karnataka University, Dharwad recognised the hospital as teaching hospital. MBBS under graduates from Karnataka Medical College Hubli were posted for training in psychiatry.
During period from 1971-1974, OPD services which were maintained in superintendent’s office, was shifted to an independent OPD building. Later on from 1975 to 1977 services were developed in terms of gardening, carpentry and by utilizing the vacant land in the hospital premises for occupational therapy.
In year 1979, academic programme, Diploma in Psychological Medicine was started in collaboration with department of Psychology of Karnataka University Dharwad. During period 1980 to 1989, 17 postgraduates in Diploma in Psychological Medicine were trained during tenure of Dr M Venkataram as Medical superintendent. During this period rehabilitation of patients back to the society was started. Emphasis was given on categorization of patients who can be rehabilitated back home and treated on out -Patient basis. Due to the state of in built problems of shortage of trained manpower in the hospital, it received a setback in 1989 and 1990 the PG course was discontinued.
In year1990 the occupational therapy unit “Centre for rehabilitation of Mental patients” (CROPM) was started by NGO under chairmanship of Deputy Commissioner, Dharwad, one acre of hospital land was given for this purpose.
Till the year 1992, the hospital was treated as a part of General hospital and managed by Health and family welfare Department, Govt. of Karnataka. In 1993, with intention to reduce stigma, name of the hospital was changed from “Mental Hospital” to “Karnataka Institute of Mental Health (KIMH)” and handed over to medical education Department. In 1996 the institute was merged under Karnataka medical college, Hubli as autonomous body.
In 1999 as per the direction of Hon’ble high court of Karnataka, a team headed by Dr M Gourie Devi, Vice chancellor of NIMHANS Bangalore, visited this hospital and submitted its recommendations to Government of Karnataka in January – 2000.
As per recommendations of NIMHANS and Hon’ble High Court direction, a new hospital building consisting of new OPD block, emergency ward, ECT room, store room,laboratory,8 open wards of 20 beds each (total 200 beds) and 8 special wards, Dharamshala were built . New building started functioning with open- ward facility from May 2005.Patient relative were made to stay with patients.
On 15 Oct 2006 Shri. V S Acharya, Minister for medical Education inaugurated the new building and recommended that KIMH should become an autonomous Postgraduate teaching centre of Northern Karnataka. To utilize the provision under National Mental Health programme with financial assistance of 30 crores by central government under 11th five year plan to establish “Centre of Excellence” for developing man power in mental health and recommendations of the Dr Nanjundappa report on correction of regional disparities in Karnataka, the institute was converted into autonomous post-graduation training institute and renamed as Dharwad institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (DIMHANS) during legislative assembly session held on 02-02-2009 at Belgaum.
The institute as a multidisciplinary approach with full-fledged teaching faculty in Psychiatry, clinical Psychology, Psychiatric social work and Psychiatric Nursing. The institute caters to the needs of nearly 400 -450 patients per day who visit from majority districts of North Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Goa and Maharashtra. The institute offers psychiatry services on Outpatient and In-patient basis; it has separate de-addiction ward, Forensic ward, special wards and psychiatric rehabilitation centre. Family counselling services offered on out-patient and In-patient basis. Department of clinical Psychology offers psychotherapies, CBT, ERP, Couple therapy, intervention for parents of autistic and mental retardation children etc; assessments like IQ, personality, SLD etc. is also done. Lawyers form District legal services, Dharwad offer free medico-legal services for mentally ill patients on every Wednesday and Friday.