Union Minister of Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi has authorised Magsaysay award winner Bharat Vatwani to assess the condition of destitute women inmates at government-run mental hospitals in the country and help trace their families so that they can be reunited.
In an official letter issued on December 12, the Union minister said that involving Vatwani and his social workers from the Shraddha Rehabilitation Foundation will pave the way for rehabilitation of the wandering mentally ill women destitutes, presently sheltered at government mental institutions.
Vatwani, winner of the Ramon Magsaysay Award, has helped reunite 7,000 mentally ill people with their families across the country and even in Nepal. “Since we set up the Shraddha Rehabilitation Foundation in 2006-07, a total of 5,700 mentally ill persons have been rehabilitated and, of these, 683 have been referrals from government mental hospitals and shelter homes,” Vatwani told The Indian Express.
“We have been able to unite at least 166 mentally ill people from Ahmedabad Mental Hospital with their families, 193 from Bhuj Mental Hospital, 227 from the Institute of Mental Health, Chennai, 89 from Vadodara Mental Hospital, four from Mahila Ashram at Karjat and one each from Alibaug Civil Hospital, Mahila Vasti Gruh, Chembur, Bareily Mental Hospital and Beggar Home, Chembur,” Vatwani said.
According to Vatwani, they have now been authorised to visit government mental hospitals across the country and assess the women destitute inmates. “We will get them to our centre at Karjat near Mumbai, where they will be treated, rehabilitated and then reunited with their families,” Vatwani said. “With this authorisation from the Union WCD ministry, we hope to help trace the families of at least 300 mentally ill women at these hospitals every year,” he added.
At Shraddha Rehabilitation Foundation at Karjat, social workers take rounds in an ambulance to trace mentally ill deserted persons living on roadsides. “We also get calls from locals, NGOs and police if they find such people. They are brought to our centre, which accommodates 120 patients,” Vatwani said.
While several mentally ill people found wandering on the roads suffer from schizophrenia, there are patients who also have depression and bipolar disorder. “They usually spend two-three months at our centre and then feel better after medication. After counselling they also start talking about their homes and family members and social workers then obtain more information about them. This helps in reuniting them with their families,” Vatwani said.