'Families disown kin cured of mental illness'

In yet another ‘classic’ example that exhibits our society’s narrow-mindedness and hypocrisy, a 91-year-old has been forced to spent almost her entire life -- 63 years -- at the Regional Mental Hospital in Yerwada as the relatives refused to take her back. Medical Superintendent of the hospital Vilas Bhailume said, “She was admitted to the hospital on May 13, 1950, by her sister’s son. 

the bitter pill: The Regional Mental Hospital in Yerwada; (below) hospital medical superintendent Vilas Bhailume. Pics/Krunal Gosavi

At that time she suffered from chronic schizophrenia and was on medication for several years. She was on anti-psychotic drugs until December 2010, but now she is being treated only for hypertension. No one except her brother-in-law has come to meet her all this while, but is unwilling to take her home. We contacted her relatives 34 times till sate following which the man showed up this month and promised to shift her to an old age home.”

According to Bhailume, the woman is not the only patient whose family has disowned her. He said, “A lady was admitted to the hospital a few years ago and the family had then registered their Ahmednagar address in the record book. When our assistants took her back to Ahmednagar, they were unable to locate the woman’s family as they had relocated. Inquiry in the neighbourhood revealed that the family had shifted to Pune. When we contacted they family on its new address, they refused to take her back.

It was only after repetitive requests that her brother came to hospital. We persuaded him a lot take her home and discharged the woman. But he abandoned her at the hospital’s main gate.”

Bhailume said the hospital was home to 139 patients whose addresses were traceable but relatives had showed reluctance in taking them back. While 15 per cent of 139 patients have spent considerable amount of time in the hospital, the asylum had become home for 35 per cent patients. As of today, the hospital has 1,871 patients under its roof.

“Our staff and social workers are trying to trace relatives of the patients whose addresses are not with us. They check at the police stations all over the country for missing person’s complaint. They are also using internet to locate relatives and addresses,” Bhailume said.

As per the procedure, the hospital sends three letters to the relatives of the patients who have recovered fully. But if they fail to get a reply, then hospital representatives personally take the patient to the address registered by its relatives at the time of admission to the asylum.

Hope floats
The hospital, in collaboration NGO Parivartan, have started an initiative wherein the two try to locate a patient’s, who have recovered fully, relatives and hand them over. So far, five patients have been reunited with their families through this initiative that was started two years ago. 

350 Number of patients whose address and relatives are untraceable

1,871Total number of patients at the Regional Mental Hospital 

Patients     Numbers
Male              123
Female        116  

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