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Haryana Government Plans Major Way Forward in Mental Illness

Gurugram: On 26th July, Government psychiatrists and clinical psychologists from 15 districts of Haryana participated in a day-long State level workshop in Gurugram, to understand the requirements of recovery and rehabilitation for personsliving with mental illness, and to develop plans to provide such services in all Districts of Haryana.

 The workshop was initiated by Dr Veena Singh, Director of Health Services in the Government of Haryana, whose vision is to provide such services all over Haryana. The workshop was held in the Polyclinic at Sector 31, Gurugram by Sambandh Health Foundation (SHF), under the Civil Hospital, Gurugram. SHF has under a MoU with Haryana Government been running various recovery services for people living with severe mental illness such as schizophrenia and bi-polar since 2014. Haryana is perhaps one of the few states to have piloted such community-based services.

 Dr Veena Singh said that more than more than 1.9 % of the Indian population is estimated to have severe mental disorders in their lifetime (National Mental Health Survey – 2016, by NIMHANS), and hence more than 5 lac persons in Haryana are impacted by it. She added that due to chemical changes in the brain, these illnesses manifest themselvesin a person’s behaviour and take a long time to be identified.  Stigma in society about mental illness, which sees it as bad behaviour, bad upbringing or weakness of character, instead of an illness, prevents people from coming forward for treatment.  Once they do, medication helps people stabilize their condition. But by then the persons living with mental illness have experienced many years of isolation from society and have lost their ability to function as a part of their homes and the community. Families and caregivers find it difficult to cope with the changes in behaviour and tend to withdraw from society. Many experience a burn-out, coping with the life-long situation that has got created, taking care of their loved ones, and the physical, emotional, financial and social needs.

 Two persons with mental illness and two caregivers spoke at the workshop of their own experiences and how hopeless their lives had seemed before they started with recovery services at SHF, and they reiterated that their lives had improved dramatically since they started availing of these. A family member in a Family Self Help Group meeting said, ‘I had chosen to be a parent but not a caregiver. This role was thrust upon me.’

 Rehabilitation or recovery services and caregiver support is required to help patients and families integrate back with the community. Dr Veena Singh said that the Government of Haryana’s three-year pilot with SHF has been successful and we have used know-how from a very successful model in Canada – which is known for its advanced mental health systems. We are now working on taking this learning to all districts of Haryana.

 Dr Brahmdeep Sindhu, PMO at the Civil Hospital, Gurugram spoke of how the partnership between him and the work at SHF has benefitted a very large number of patients. He added that SHF had expanded services to four villages in Gurugram – Gurgaon Gaon, Basai, Gandhinagar and Jharsa – and this has increased the rate of those seeking help.

 Ms Rita Seth, Head of Mental Health at SHF shared with the attendees from the 15 districts of Haryana, the methodologies used at SHF, and of how these facilitated the recovery journey of the persons with mental illness, as well as helping families and caregivers cope with the situations. As she said,“mental illness is not a choice, but recovery is.”

 The attendees of the workshop broke up into smaller work-groups for discussions, and each group came back with plans on how recovery services will implemented in Haryana’s districts.

 The new Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 mandates that states provide community based services for the people living with mental illness and their families. The Haryana Government pilot has, from the Sector 31 facility provided support to families/caregivers and for home based rehabilitation (outreach services) as per Section 18(4)(c) of the MH Act. They have also provides rehabilitation services in a manner which supports persons with mental illness to live in the community and with their families as per Section 18(5)(b) of the MH Act.

 Dr.Vishavneet Singh, Deputy Director,Mental Health, said that as per Section 18(5)(1) of the MH Act we will integrate mental healthcare services into general healthcare services at all levels including primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare. She added that as per Section 18(5)(d) of the MH Act, Haryana Government will ensure that no person with mental illness shall be required to travel long distances to access mental health services.

 SHF has also set up one of the sheltered accommodations (as per Section 18(4)(b) of the MH Act) and Haryana Government will take this learning to other parts of the State.

 For the beleaguered people with mental illness and their tired and distraught families living in the darkness of this disease,  this workshop portends a ray of hope, and Dr Veena Singh and her team intend to spread this to all corners of Haryana and bring sunshine into their lives.


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