The prolonged stay of the inmates, who are on their way to recovery, weakens their conditions

Branded mad for life Keralas mentally ill are being abandoned at institutions by families
news Mental Health Tuesday, May 02, 2017 - 17:50

That the stigma around mental health still persists in India is evident in this distressing situation faced by the mental health care centres in Kerala. Their inmates cannot leave even after their treatments are complete because their families are unwilling to accept them back leading to overcrowding in the facilities.  

The Kerala government runs three mental health care centres in the state in Kuthiravattom of Kozhikode, in Thrissur and in Oolampara of Thiruvananthapuram. There are around 1500 beds in these hospitals, but number of inmates sometimes outnumber the beds. 

This mismatch between the number of inmates and the infrastructure available is making it increasingly difficult for the centres that are forced to operate beyond their capacities. With over 30 lakh people in the state affected by mental disorders the need for rehabilitation centres has become a pressing issue.

“No rehabilitation has been happening in these hospitals. Last week we had a meeting with the health minister where we had sought for rehabilitation centres in all districts,” Sugathakumari, renowned poet and founder of NGO Abhaya, told The News Minute.

The other major concern regarding the prolonged stay of the inmates, on their way to recovery, is that it only weakens their mental health conditions.

“The partially cured patients should be shifted from the hospital to a serene, peaceful environment that can bring a lot of changes. These people after getting cured or partially cured, remain in the hospitals which can again weaken their mental health,” Sugathakumari said. 

But she says that even healthy elderly people are being abandoned by relatives.  “Then think about someone who went through mental health treatment, people mercilessly abandon them. But they, especially women, deserve a better security and comfort,” she added. 

The patients do not get a chance at complete recovery as they are denied supportive environments  by their families. Even though doctors stress that through systematic medication many of the patients can lead a normal life, their families still turn their backs on them.

“Some patients get admitted here through court orders. They might have committed some crime and may be mentally ill. Usually nobody takes them back even after treatment. If they take medicines continuously and systematically, they may recover but their relatives are not convinced,” Martin Resident Medical Officer of Thiruvananthapuram Mental health centre told TNM.

A senior doctor from Kozhikode Mental Health Centre told TNM that a lot of migrants stay on even after recovery.

“We cannot leave them on the streets, that for sure will turn them in to severely mentally ill patient. So, they stay here. Space crunch is severe, but we have no other options. We try our better to keep the recovered patients away from other patients to give them a better environment,” she said.

Hospital authorities’ attempts to get in touch with the families often fail, as the families refuse to respond to calls from the hospitals. 

“We continuously try to contact their relatives. But they don’t respond or neglect our calls. Many times we have tried to drop patients back to their houses. In some cases they are returned back to us,” she added.

In 2016 November, the Kerala State Mental Health Authority had written a letter to the Maharashtra mental health cell asking them to take back all the patients from Maharashtra who continued to stay on in the Kerala hospitals even after their recovery. 

Pune mirror had quoted Regional Mental Hospital's medical superintendent Dr Bhalchandra Dongalikar saying that this is the first time that they have received such a letter from a state.

Though none of the hospitals were willing to give the exact number of such patients, NGOs allege that there are hundreds.

Society for Mental Health Kerala (SMH), an NGO in Kozhikode has around 35 inmates who were shifted from the mental hospital in the district.

“We can accommodate only a certain number, still many remain in hospitals. They are also lacking the security and comfort of a home environment. Why can’t we consider it as a basic right of a person, one cannot be denied of his rights just because he was a patient once,” Vijayan, the administrator of SMH said. 

 

Edited by Kannaki Deka

 

 

 

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