Reaching out to the mentally ill | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Reaching out to the mentally ill

Abuses, menacing mobs trying to beat her up and even people lunging at her with knives — it’s all part of a day’s work for Shweta Sharma.

delhi Updated: Jul 02, 2012 00:59 IST
Sidhartha Roy

Abuses, menacing mobs trying to beat her up and even people lunging at her with knives — it’s all part of a day’s work for Shweta Sharma.

The slender and 20-something Sharma, is not a part of a riot control force, but a counsellor in a small team of doctors and paramedics who reach out to the mentally ill who can’t or don’t visit a hospital.

Reaching out, however, is not always easy. The team often gets calls from the police, neighbours, NGOs or families as most patients resist medical help. There are times the patient’s family refuses to let go of him/her. Sometimes, neighbours too join in. The team members, however, are first trained in-house and then in the field to deal with such situations.

Sharma works in a Mobile Mental Health Unit (MMHU), a part of the Institute of Human Behaviour & Allied Sciences (IHBAS), which was created in December 2010 to bridge the gap in the treatment of the mentally ill. There are two units that rescue patients.

“We now get five to 10 calls every day and bring in about two patients every week for treatment to IHBAS,” said

Dr Hitesh Chauhan, who heads one unit. Each team consists of a doctor, a counsellor, a nurse and a nursing orderly. The teams have ambulances to bring patients to the hospital.

Since its inception, MMHU has received 455 calls and admitted 99 patients. The team first assesses the patient and then refers them for treatment or brings them to IHBAS if they require immediate medical attention.

Despite the challenges, the team has several success stories too. “Most of our patients have joined the mainstream,” said Dr Pankaj Kumar of IHBAS. Of the 99 patients admitted till date, 63 are back with their families and 10 homeless patients are being taken care of by NGOs. “It’s a risky job but nothing can match the satisfaction of seeing a patient go back to normal life,” said Sharma.