Experienced psychiatrists admit that schizophrenia,considered the nadir of mental disorders,is one of the toughest to treat. Gandhars (full name withheld),example is of a patient who has recovered. He had symptoms of schizophrenia for almost nine years and could not continue studies after Std X.
Fortunately for Gandhar,his family lived close to Dhairy where the Schizophrenia Awareness Association’s Rehabilitation Centre is located. He was encouraged to attend the rehab programme as one of the shubarthis, says Gurudatt Kundapurkar,Vice President Schizoprhenia Awareness Association (SAA). After several interventions and close monitoring,Gandhar now is capable of running a tea and snack centre. May 24 is observed as World Schizophrenia Day to create awareness about the disease. The age group at highest risk is between 15-35 years. The problem not only affects the personal health and hygiene of the person but also his/her relations with the family and community at large.
Schizophrenia reduces the individuals ability to work,socialise and reduces his or her attention,concentration,and memory. Symptoms include hallucinations,delusions,disorders of thinking,neglect of health care and personal hygiene as well as disinterest in socialising. On the occasion of World Schizophrenia Day,the SAA plans to recall the contribution of Dr. Philippe Pinel,the Chief Physician of the Bicetre Hospital,on the outskirts of Paris of the late 18th century. In this asylum Pinel found 200 men diagnosed with mental illness chained to the walls,some for 30 to 40 years,as if they were wild beasts. With the concurrence of the Revolutionary Government,Dr.Pinel created history and social disquiet by ordering these men to be unchained and treated like other human beings.
World Schizophrenia Day is observed to specially pay tribute to this extraordinary humane psychiatrist. This savant freed persons in metal chains but shubharthis even to this day have been struggling to free themselves from invisible chains of hopelessness,isolation,lethargy,ignorance,low self-esteem,discrimination,stigmatisation and indignity. According to Kundapurkar,to de-stigmatise and restore self-esteem SAA family members replaced degrading terms like mental patient,consumer,or client with Shubharthi,literally meaning a seeker of well being,in Sanskrit.
SAA will be releasing Marathi edition of Dr Abraham Lows biography ‘My Dear Ones’ on May 24,during the 75 th anniversary of Recovery Inc. Over 600 Recovery self-help support groups,will be a part of the occasion. Like Gandhar there have been success stories like that of Arun,who had to give up studying medicine,used the self-help method and is now tutoring students at home in Mumbai. Yet there are few facilities and services for the shubharthis and their caregivers, says Kundapurkar.