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Sunday, October 17, 2021

Mental Health Day: Weeklong programmes in Pune to raise awareness on need to scale up services

This year, the theme of World Mental Health Day, which falls on Oct 10, is ‘Mental health in an unequal world’.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
Updated: October 10, 2021 8:57:19 pm
On the occasion of World Mental Health Day, students and faculty members of Maharashtra Institute of Mental Health (MIMH) and BJ Medical College carry out an awareness campaign on mental health and education near SPPU on Saturday. (Express photo by Ashish Kale)

Forty-five-year-old Reema is aware she has to take lifelong medication to treat schizophrenia. For nine years, the rehabilitation centre at Pune has been her second home and while she visits her ageing parents in Mumbai, she does not want to return. “I have worked at the bakery set up by the centre and also learned knitting and stitching. I can get a better job,” says Reema.

Twenty-nine-year-old Disha has been suffering from a psychiatric illness since she was 16 years old. Her parents died when she was nine and her condition worsened after she was forced into a marriage with a drug addict by her uncle’s family. The psychological disturbances affected her overall physical condition and she was soon admitted to a rehabilitation centre. “I am feeling better now and have cleared class X exams. I will soon appear for class XII exams and like to help in the centre’s work,” says Disha.

On the occasion of World Mental Health Day, students and faculty members of Maharashtra Institute of Mental Health (MIMH) and BJ Medical College carry out an awareness campaign on mental health and education near SPPU on Saturday. (Express photo by Ashish Kale)

At Pratiti, a psychosocial rehabilitation centre for people with various psychiatric disorders, an in-house bakery and other art and craft activities like embroidery and crochet, fabric painting, diya painting and lantern making are regularly taught to the 75-odd inmates. “Several have recovered and are keen on gaining employment. Like Reema, most are aware of their condition and all they need is acceptance and support from society,” said Sushupti Sathe, director of the centre.

The theme of World Mental Health Day on October 10 is ‘mental health in an unequal world’. At most rehabilitation centres, including the government-run regional mental hospital at Yerawada, the focus is on rehabilitation of patients in the community. On the occasion, both Pratiti and the regional mental hospital will conduct a virtual dance competition for people with various psychiatric disorders. A two-day exhibition will also be held on October 30 and 31 at Hotel Laxman on Prabhat Road to showcase artifacts made by the residents of the rehabilitation centre, Sathe said. “Initally, there was very little awareness and we had to deal with stigma if the patients sought psychiatric help. The focus is on both psychosocial interventions along with pharmacological management and providing gainful employment to our residents,” she said. At the regional mental hospital, deputy superintendent Dr Geeta Kulkarni said at least ten patients are now employed – either making artificial jewellery or working in hotels. Weeklong programmes with Covid-appropriate behaviour have been organised at the hospital.

B J Medical College’s psychiatry department and Maharashtra Institute of Mental Health have also organised a weeklong programme highlighting the need to scale up mental health services. Dr Niteen Abhivant, associate professor at BJ MC psychiatry department, said students and staff of MIMH held a human chain on Saturday to create awareness about mental health.

Dr Sapna Bangar, psychiatrist and head, Mpower-The Centre, said for every million population, there are only three psychiatrists and even fewer psychologists. Add to this a global pandemic and the impact that it has had on the mental health of individuals across all age groups and social strata and it is not hard to understand how we are facing a storm that seems almost too difficult to navigate, she said. “We need to impart skills to the general population as well as primary health workers to identify and sensitively care for people suffering from mental health issues in the right direction,” Bangar added.

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