People who have recovered from mental illness now have a chance to lead a regular life thanks to the newly opened rehabilitation homes in Kerala.
Named 'Snehakkoodu’ (home of love), the rehabilitation homes have been set up by the state department of health’s Arogya Keralam project in association with The Banyan, a mental health NGO based in Chennai, and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).
The homes, set up in Malappuram and Kozhikode, will house 100 people in the first phase. At present, there are nearly 300 people who have recovered from mental illness at various government hospitals, but who are not able to come out of the hospital and lead a regular life as they have no other place to shelter them.
“There are nearly 100 people, half of them women, who have completed treatment at the Mental Health Centre, Peroorkada in Thiruvananthapuram only. The people who will be rehabilitated are chosen based on the assessment done by the NGO. Their family background, their ability to do everyday tasks, their mental health and so on are assessed. Though 100 people will be accommodated in the first phase, there will be expansion in the future,” Dr T Sagar, Superintendent, Mental Health Centre Thiruvananthapuram told TNM.
The beneficiaries of 'Snehakkoodu' will be the people who were undergoing treatment at the government mental health centres in Thrissur, Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram. Though NGOs like Asha Bhawan have been accommodating them, this is the first time that a co-ordinated, centralised facility has been set up with the government’s involvement.
“We used to send patients who have recovered to such homes, but it was not that effective as more and more people needed the support. There was a Public Interest Litigation filed at the High Court seeking rehabilitation of the people after which the court directed the government to do the same,” Dr Sagar said.
By setting up the homes, the larger vision is to increase the participation of people, who were once rejected from society due to their illness, in the community and enable them to lead a dignified life. Banyan was started in 1993 and has rehabilitated more than 2,000 people so far.
“We rehabilitate four types of people who are mentally ill – those who are abandoned by family members; those who don’t want to return to their families; those who have mental disabilities and are not able to pay attention or work; and those who have no memory of their families. Keeping them for long periods at hospitals is not useful for them as well as for the government – the government has to spend money on the same person consistently for years and the people feel stigmatised,” said Dr K V Kishor Kumar, director, The Banyan.
The Banyan has an entirely different approach to rehabilitation, which it calls radical, which is to send people post-recovery back to society and make them live within it.
Dr Kishor added, “By doing so we can ensure their participation in the community, they live with dignity and their rights can be ensured. By training them in tasks they are able to perform, they can earn money and manage their life themselves. At hospitals there is no freedom and they have minimal participation in the community, they cannot socialise with people.”
Dr Kishor also said that the Kerala homes would be expanded to accommodate more people.
Head of the Banyan Kerala Chapter, Salih Puthenmalieckal, said, “The Kerala government is associating with us after assessing the work we have done. Banyan started the Kerala homes a year ago, in March 2017. As a pilot project, we ran two homes at Kozhikode, one at Ramanattukara and one at Cherukav, and six homes at Pulikkal in Malappuram. The project name is ‘Home again home’. We have screened, keeping in mind human rights and social settings, 224 people from the three mental health centres in Kerala. After that we deemed around 100 of them can be accommodated at the homes.”
“We call them residents, not patients or inmates. TISS provides the support for training and research,” Salih added.
The Memorandum of Understanding of the Scheme will be signed on Monday by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at a function to be held at the Mental Health Centre Thiruvananthapuram.