HT Chandigarh Readers’ Take: This Smart City has no home for people with mental health issues
Le Corbusier stated in his Statute of Land that Chandigarh would be a city offering all amenities to the poorest of the poor to lead a dignified life. It’s time we included people with mental health issues in this list and helped them lead a dignified life even when their families are not around to help them. The provision of a daycare cum home for adults is not a luxury but a necessity and as per the new Mental Health policy 2017 -- a fundamental need. We can start small in one of the under-utilised buildings with the administration. The families of residents could pool in funds, nursing students and medical interns could be employed as a part of their training. Charities, NGOs and sponsors under CSR could help families in need of financial support.
Deepika Gandhi, Chandigarh
A long time resident of Chandigarh, I am the father (and the only caregiver) of a person with mental illness. I am now nearly 80 years of age and suffering from multiple health problems. I know firsthand the pain and anguish of parents of persons with disability. The Chandigarh administration must pay heed to the following:
UT adviser Manoj Parida has said, “In Chandigarh, we have no land,” for a home and that “one needs at least six acres of land. That will not be necessary as according to estimates the land requirement for five small group homes for 10– 15 residents each of 1,000 square yards per unit would be just one acre. The city has quite a few vacant plots in different sectors, which are designated for public use as per the Chandigarh Master Plan. These have been lying unused for the last 50 years. The administration needs to move fast. Old parents suffering from several ailments during the Covid pandemic no longer have the time for land allocation, budgetary provisions, policy formulation, building and then starting the group homes.
Amitava Das, Chandigarh
Chandigarh has a large population of retired personnel. Being confined indoors because of the pandemic situation and having no social contact can have a negative effect on the elderly. This results in mental stress and other problems. There are numerous instances of children unable to care for their elders. One, therefore, needs an old age home in the city, with facilities for mental healthcare.
HS Puri, Chandigarh
I as well as my sister are married and settled in the US. Our parents live in Chandigarh with our 40-year-old sister who has mental health issues. She is stable and can function normally with some help from mental health professionals, community and our parents, who are 79 and 76 years old. Both are cancer survivors. My father has an advanced form of cancer and is currently on heavy medication. My mother also has several old age related issues. The entire family worries about my sister. I feel that the UT administration should understand the situation of families like us. We do not need any financial subsidy from the government and will be happy to pay the full monthly living and treatment expenses. What we do need is a physical setup conducive to good quality living within the city. I will also volunteer to raise money for residents who happen to be poor and can’t afford to pay.
Roma Batra, USA
The Chandigarh administration should consider setting up care homes at the earliest as there are a number of families requiring urgent help. Staff for the homes, including psychiatrists, social workers and clinical psychologists can be hired from among students graduating from the Government Medical College and Hospital in Sector 32. Suitable, unused houses in the city should be identified and converted into group homes. Everything depends upon how important the problem is for the authorities.
Gurpreet Singh, Chandigarh
There are many elderly persons who suffer from depression and anxiety as their families do not care for them. Living in care homes with others like them and enjoying facilities and entertainment options will definitely bring them happiness. These facilities should be run under government supervision for better maintenance. Youngsters and others from the city can also volunteer to provide services here and help the inmates.
Sumindar Kaur Saini, Mohali
Addressing the needs of marginalised groups and ensuring their well being reflects a supportive social structure, which addresses everyone’s needs when it comes to providing equity and accessibility. Adults having mental health problems need to be taken care of. The needs of such individuals can be ascertained by the caregivers and the administration.
Dr Guneet Singh Assi, Chandigarh
Adults with mental disorders need round-the-clock care and support, which can be very taxing for a caregiver such as an elderly parent. Often, people suffering from Alzheimer’s, dementia, autism, obsessive compulsive disorders etc go missing from home and keep wandering around as they are not able to recognise the dangers of the outside world. Sadly, in many such cases they are unable to tell their names and addresses to people wanting to help them. Families too often abandon people with mental health issues. To provide care to such people the UT must get medically equipped sheltered homes with trained caregivers to provide a happy and healthy environment to them.
Sangita Rai, Panchkula
The administration should provide spacious, clean, comfortable and assisted living for a collective family (connected by pain) of people with various mental health challenges and ensure they live a dignified life. Every kind of assistance should be provided to the inmates to help them with day to day living, medical treatment, health and wellness programmes and also recreational facilities like sports, indoor games, movies and books. A spacious home with facilities for exercising should be available and trained paramedics, psychiatrists and experts in psychosocial behaviour should be on call. Compassion and empathy without judgement should be available in abundance in such homes.
Chandigarh is home to more than 13% population above the age of 18 years of age that’s suffering from various mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, alcohol abuse, OCD and stress. However, the problem is that this percentage is likely to be higher considering the fact that there is no proper system of diagnosing mental health issues, especially among the lower strata of the population. Whatever care homes are available in the UT are already overwhelmed due the recent Covid-19 pandemic as many more people are being gripped by depression and other socio-psychological illnesses. The UT administration should take the help of professional agencies in running the existing care homes and also increase the capacity to accommodate more persons with different types of mental health issues.
Anil Kumar Yadav, Chandigarh
UT adviser Manoj Parida has done well to identify the building of Cheshire Home in Sector 21 for setting up a group care home and DART building in Sector 32 as half-way home for the mentally challenged. These facilities can be looked after, initially, through a public-private partnership with NGOs and subsequently handed over to them. An advisory committee comprising eminent citizens and representatives of the stakeholders should also be constituted to supervise all work. Local citizens can organise a volunteer corps to look after the needs of the inmates. Local businesses can be co-opted to donate money for operations of the homes. People associated with Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and ASHA can go to the homes to teach inmates. Streamlining the provision of health insurance and income for the occupants through government legislation will also lessen the financial burden on such homes.
Lt Col GS Bedi (retd)
I am the caretaker of an adult woman with mental health issues. I feel the city should have a home where persons with mental illness and intellectual disability can be housed on campus along with all the support staff such as social workers and counsellors. We must take into consideration the different care needs of the residents as also their paying capacity. There should be various categories of assisted living facilities taking into account the variation in socio-economic capacities of families. A team of mental health professionals from prominent hospitals in the city and social workers/ NGOs can be formed to chalk out a management plan. Funds can be raised through individual donations and CSR.
Balvir Kaur Grewal, Chandigarh
Something can be done along the lines of the Arche communities, “a worldwide federation of people, with and without learning disabilities, working together for a world where all belong.” It started in 1964 in France, when the founder welcomed in his home two men with disabilities, and has grown into a network of 153 communities, spread over 38 countries and five continents. It’s not a political or religious movement and even less a commercial undertaking. Parents-carers, young volunteers with an ideal, retired nurses or social workers help the sick and weak. Forty to 50 members live together and share everything: Chores, meals, production of objects in workshops. There’s no separation between patients and medical staff; everybody helps according to his capacity and accepts the other as he is, and if love is patience, it must abound in these homes.
I am the mother of a 50-year-old son with mental health challenges who is totally dependent on me and my husband. We are worried about his future. Last year I was one of the signatories in the list of 70 persons given to the UT administrator for assisted living care homes in the city. We have been requesting the administration to consider accommodating us in Indira Holiday Home. These challenged adults who have suffered so much in life. They need help and succour in their middle and old age.
Pammi Lamba, Chandigarh
There is definitely a need for a home for those facing mental and emotional challenges. As humans we express our dharma or creed of belief though opportunities of support for the vulnerable. Many places in Chandigarh are under utilised and face neglect. There are several community centres, some designated as banquet halls, areas demarcated for commercial activity that have not been used, and several places that are open if a new building is to be set up. The administration should look at more options for setting up a home.
Kamal Malhi, Chandigarh
As a modern, post-Independence city, Chandigarh is uniquely placed to move beyond individual silos and uphold the spirit of healthy community living. It has been blessed with adequate open spaces and best of civic amenities to accommodate those with special needs. The administration can rope in non-profit organisations such as YMCA and Servants of the People Society which have large premises comprising buildings and lawns.
The population of seniors living by themselves is increasing in the city. The hospitals send you home after surgery. For the rehabilitation period a person needs assisted living. In the absence of such facilities (which people are happily willing to pay for), one is left at the mercy of domestic helpers and semi-trained attendants, even give them access to their homes. If we have medium-term rehabilitation facilities for adults, and long-term assisted living for early dementia patients, even daycare, people can enjoy a better quality of life and safety for much longer and their families can get some relief. The administration should focus on recruitment, training, and management of the staff for a network of such facilities across the city, not just one.
Unita Vasishta, Chandigarh
A state-of-the-art facility should be developed where a lot hands-on work/craft etc should be developed so these adults can enrol in various different vocations as per their choice. Other basic requirements are: Structured schedule, which includes self-care and house maintenance activities at fixed times of the day, leisure time utilisation and money management. A homely atmosphere to make the residents feel comfortable is essential. Residents can also do domestic chores if they want. There should be medication compliance, relapse prevention and crisis management. Emphasis should also be laid on improvement of mental and physical health. Activities such as gardening, reading, writing, nature walks and yoga should be encouraged. Recreational activities such as sports, films, music and group excursions should be organised.
Gagan (Liza) Chawla
If today a five star hotel is to be built, the administration will have enough space for it even at the cost of green belts, but for care homes the authorities will come up with a hundred and one excuses. Adults with mental problems too have the right to live. If there is no one left to take care of them, then it is the duty of the government to look after them. When officials can spend lakhs of rupees on renovation of their government bungalows then why can’t they spare funds for the welfare of persons with mental problems and other senior citizens?
Inderjit Singh Sidhu, Mohali
A person with mental challenges could have other co-morbidities too and might get violent or become unmanageable. To rehabilitate such a person is a real need. However, starting the process to remove physically challenged persons to accommodate the mentally challenged (as happening in a home in the city) shows the callous and limited thinking of the administration and social welfare department. And then to label the national and international wheel chair cricketers as “encroachers” – the very same people who have been fending for themselves for years with the help of NGOs and donors is a reflection of the state’s attitude toward special ability. Sharmita Bhinder