A pilot project is underway to set up family wards, along the lines of the open wards at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), at the state’s largest regional mental hospital at Yerawada. The project, under which a family member of an inmate stays at the family ward to ensure better recovery of the patient, has already been launched at the government-run hospital in Thane.
It will also be introduced at the government-run mental hospitals in Nagpur and Ratnagiri, Dr Sadhana Tayade, Additional Director of Health (mental health), told The Indian Express. Support from family members and regular intake of medicines can go a long way in stabilising and rehabilitating the patient in the community, said Tayade.
A significant step towards this will be taken in October, as World Mental Health Day falls on October 10 and Mental Health Awareness Week is observed in the first week of the month.
Family members of the patient can help provide a homely atmosphere for the patient, said Dr Abhijit Phadnis, superintendent of the Yerawada hospital. “We are identifying at least 10 such patients who are stable and on the path to recovery, so that their relatives can stay with them,” said Phadnis. There are over 1,650 patients at the regional hospital at Yerawada.
At the Thane regional hospital, which has 1,370 mentally ill patients, superintendent Dr Sanjay Bodade said that the concept has already been introduced. “We have identified three to four such patients and their family members have been staying here,” he said. However, health officials admitted that it was challenging to convince relatives to stay at the hospital.
It is estimated that 700 million people worldwide have a mental disorder, with almost 80 per cent of them coming from low and middle-income countries. The Indian subcontinent is particularly vulnerable, and neuropsychiatric disorders in the region alone contribute to 34.1 per cent of the global burden of the disease, according to the World Health Organisation.
The main goal is to work towards setting up halfway homes, which allow people to begin the process of reintegration with society while they are still being monitored and provided support. “However, initially, we are planning to introduce family wards,” said Tayade.
At the mental health hospitals in the state, several patients had no relatives at all, said Tayade. While a central government survey is underway to identify the number of such patients across 44 mental hospitals in the country, in Maharashtra, 1,011 such persons have been living at mental hospitals for more than a year. There were 234 such patients at the regional mental hospital in Yerawada, 275 in the Nagpur hospital, and 350 and 53 at the hospitals in Thane and Ratnagiri.