More than 50 bhuvas (faith healers) participated in a meet which was held to appeal slum dwellers to reduce their reliance on black magic and consult medical doctors for their mental health issues. The meeting was also attended by the community leaders of various slums in the city along with doctors and members of non-government organisations
City-based NGO Baroda Citizens Council (BCC) is now taking the help of faith healers to reach slum dwellers who risk their lives by ignoring medical advice and follow the rituals of the black magic.
The NGO is trying to educate the faith healers in the city about the symptoms of different levels of mental illness.
The faith healers,on identifying such patients,can refer them to psychiatrics or medical health departments.
“Since this is a profession for them,it has been very difficult to get the faith healers together and persuade them to refer patients to doctors,” said Swapna Biswas,
the BCC project coordinator for mental health programme. “We are also bringing together the community leaders of various slums and make them realise the importance of medicine,” she said.
Admitting that in most cases,faith healers are unaware of the symptoms of mental ailment of patients,a faith healer from Tandalja said,”We generally get patients who hear strange sounds or get fits. We cure them by giving them taveez or holy water.”
“People in slums do not readily approach doctors and trust faith healers blindly. We are just trying to convince the faith healers to identify the symptoms and send the patients to doctors before it is too late,” said Dr Rakesh Shah,the Superintendent of Mental Health Hospital,Karelibaug.
“If patients are sent to doctors through faith healers the faith remains intact. Religious counselling and medical treatment together can be integrated to bring down mental illness,” he said.