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Thane hospital lets families of mentally-ill patients check in too

As part of a new initiative, the hospital has converted an entire ward into residential quarters, where families of patients with severe mental illnesses stay

mumbai Updated: Nov 05, 2018 00:35 IST
Aayushi Pratap
Aayushi Pratap
Hindustan Times
Thane,Thane Mental Hospital,schizophrenia
An official at the hospital said for now, the hospital is only asking relatives of patients with severe mental illnesses to move in.(HT FILE)

In October, a 20-year-old man stabbed his mother during an extreme episode of schizophrenia. While he was diagnosed with the condition over six years ago, it was only after this incident that his family decided to take him to Thane’s Regional Mental Hospital.

And, his family checked in too.

As part of a new initiative, the hospital has converted an entire ward into residential quarters, where families of patients with severe mental illnesses stay.

The families of seven other patients also live there.

As for the 20-year-old, he now takes long walks with his father inside the 117-year-old, sprawling colonial-era campus.

“Last month was horrible,” said the father, an engineer.

“I didn’t know what was going to happen to my wife after she was stabbed. Now that she has recovered, we took the decision to move here.”

The hospital’s superintendent, Dr Sanjay Bodade, said involving family in the recovery process may reduce cases of abandonment.

“We want relatives to take an active part in the rehabilitation process and learn how to handle situations, especially when patients have an episode,” Dr Bodade said. “Very often, it happens that after the patient is discharged, relatives bring them back in four or five days and abandon them here, as they are unable to take care of their

needs back at home,” Dr Bodade added.

The hospital has 1,386 patients who are currently being treated, and another 356 people who have fully recovered but have been abandoned by their families.

An official at the hospital said for now, the hospital is only asking relatives of patients with severe mental illnesses to move in. “People with full time jobs may refuse,” the official said.

This, however, is not a new idea. Doctors at the Bangalore-based National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) — the country’s leading mental health care institution — have been “strongly” encouraging relatives to stay with patients during treatment.

“Do relatives of kidney patients, cancer patients or even asthma patients leave them suffering alone in the hospital during treatment? Then why leave psychiatric patients?” said Dr BN Gangadhar, the director, NIMHANS. “Every mental illness should also be seen as any other physical illness,” he said, adding that allowing relatives to stay with patients also helps alleviate the stigma around mental health issues.

Dr Milan Balakrishnan, a psychiatrist in Mumbai, said most studies have shown patients have faster recovery and lower relapse rates when relatives are involved in the care-giving, but added that the burden on the caregiver may be higher in mental illnesses compared to other physical ailments.

“Often, the burden worsens because the relatives don’t understand the illness fully and do not know how to deal with the patient during an ongoing episode. Staying with the patient during treatment equips relatives to handle the illness better later,” Dr Balakrishnan said.

Experts, who wrote the 2017 Mental Healthcare Act, called the initiative a move in the right direction.

Dr Soumitra Pathare, director, Centre for Mental Health Law and Policy, at the Indian Law Society, Pune, said such initiatives will help preserve relationships that are often broken in families that have people with mental illnesses. “Relatives must participate in the care-giving process, for better patient outcomes,” he said.

First Published: Nov 05, 2018 00:35 IST