No home for the mentally ill


As many as 30 people who don’t need institutional mental care anymore after having undergone prolonged treatments are stuck at the Psychiatric Diseases Hospital, some for years, because their families have not taken them back. Such patients are supposed to be lodged at halfway or rehabilitation homes the state government has failed to establish, although the Supreme Court told the state to do so in 2015.
“Some have been living in the hospital for years because there is no place for them to go to,” said a worker at the hospital. He said the number of mentally challenged/ill people living out on roads was even higher.
Kashmir has no shelters for the mentally challenged, destitute or homeless.
A Supreme Court committee monitoring the state of mental health institutions across India had found Kashmir lacking ‘halfway homes, rehabilitation home, residential continuing care centres’.
Following an inspection of mental health facilities in Kashmir conducted with the collaboration of health and medical education and social welfare departments, the committee made an eight-page report that noted: “There is a need to set up measures for continuing care/rehabilitation home/half way homes for those patients who are fit to be discharged but their families don’t claim them or are destitute.” 
The report suggested that the issue be taken up with the department of social welfare.
Head department of psychiatry at the Government Medical College Srinagar Dr Maqbool Ahmed Dar said, “We do have some patients whose kin have not come to take them home so they are still in the hospital. Many proposals were made (to the government) to build a home for such people.”
Dr Arshid Hussain, professor of psychiatry at the GMC Srinagar, feels that family is the best place for the mentally ill. 
“However, with the disintegration of family systems and changes in our socio-cultural norms we can no longer bank on families to take care of such people. We definitely and direly need a home for them,” he said. 
He said in the past family institutions were the sole caretakers of the mentally ill. 
“In fact Walter Lawrence has noted this in his book on Kashmir where he remarks there were no mentally ill Muslims in asylums. After visiting villages he had noted that Muslims were actually taking care of the mentally ill in their homes much like the mentally ill in Switzerland,” he said.

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