Ghanshyam (name changed to protect identity), who suffers from schizophrenia — a mental disorder characterised by abnormal social behaviour and failure to understand reality, was brought to Ranchi Institute of Neuro Psychiatry and Allied Sciences (RINPAS) around seven years ago. Today, the 50-year-old is stable enough to rejoin society, but cannot — he has no life or family beyond the walls of the institute.
“Many times police bring mental patients found on the roads to RINPAS,” said Dr AK Nath, senior professor. “Over 50 such patients, some of whom have been staying here for over a decade, are mentally stable now, but do not have a place to go.”
Such patients account for almost 10% of the total number of patients at the institute. While some of them require regular counselling to prevent deterioration of mental health, a majority are absolutely fine, he said.
RINPAS, one of the oldest tertiary care centres in eastern India, is facing overcrowding — there are 622 patients against the government-sanctioned 500 beds. A tertiary care centre has trained personnel and facility for special investigation and treatment of patients. But, as a side effect, a shortage of doctors looms large as the institute is not only treating regular patients, but also taking care of those who are cured, a majority of who suffer from schizophrenia or bipolar disorders, doctors said.
“We have involved such patients in gardening, cleaning, and handicraft works to keep them busy,” said Dr Nath.
Some patients, as young as 35 years of age, are also unable to leave because they have no memory of their life before they were admitted. While some were abandoned by their families and left on the roads, others whose disorders made them behave aggressively were brought to the institute after locals complained.
Doctors suggested a government-run halfway home, designed to facilitate readjustment to social life, but director Subhash Soren disagreed.
“We have only nine doctors. Who will look after the patients that are shifted to the halfway homes?” he said. “I realise that the growing number of unclaimed patients in the institute is alarming, but we have no other option.”
The only alternative is a few private and missionary homes, but those too are not run by the state, said Dr Nath.