Let’s help those unfortunate ones

I wanted to write on this topic for quite some time…but I decided to sit and finish this today…after I came back from a function(organised as part of World Mental Health Day) I attended at NGO called SAA where I am associated with as volunteer.

SAA is for Schizophrenia Awareness Association, NGO based out of Pune. They run day-care center for helping mentally challenged persons to get rehabilitated since last ten years.

They need your help. And it can be in following forms:

1. Donate to the NGO
2. Help to spread the word about the NGO.
3. Help to refer anyone whom you know suffering and undergoing medical
treatment, to consult them to take their expert help, and be part of rehab
process.

About 1% of the population is affected by schizophrenia, a major mental illness and 4 – 5% with other mental illnesses. Of this only about 25% seem to have access to medical care. Which means, the vast afflicted majority suffers owing to just lack of medical facilities, ignorance, superstition or fear of stigma. Besides, in India there is an awesome dearth of mental health professionals. As for infrastructural facilities for mental health care in our country, much more needs to be done as yet, on priority.

SAA is organization which works on many platforms.

Self-Help Support Group Activities

Meetings for Shubharthis
Many shubharthis have benefitted by participating in our SHG weekly meetings, conducted on the lines of Dr. Abraham Low’s Recovery method. This is a seventy-year old self-help technique based on cognitive behaviour therapy. Four years’ of our consistent efforts have made Recovery Inc., U.S.A., to enlist on their website Ekalavya as a recognised Recovery SHSG available in India.

Playground activity & variety entertainment for Shubharthis
To help shubharthis reintegrate back into the society, an experiment was started with the guidance of mental health professionals and generous gesture of Deccan Gymkhana, one of Pune’s oldest and prestigious physical health & sports promoter. By doing physical exercises, playing games, doing yoga & pranayama, they have been able to recoup much of their alertness and agility, besides socialization. Variety entertainment programme, titled ‘Antaranga’, performed and presented by shubharthis along with volunteers has further boosted their confidence and creativity. Notable among the other programmes are Mrs. Dabke and Mrs. Shinai’s awareness programme “Mana Kalol Kalol.”

Meetings for Shubhankars
Discussion on the topics of interest to caregivers are initiated at the Saturday meetings. Occasionally, outside experts are also invited to speak to them with a view to empower them with knowledge and skills.

Training for Caregivers
Empowering caregivers has been systematically started by holding training programmes for them in places like Pune, Nashik, Ahmednagar, Aurangabad, Dhule, Ahmedabad, etc. In addition, we have also satisfactorily completed a higher level training for a team of volunteers. Many of such resource persons will assist SAA in fulfilling it’s mission of spreading mental health care services. Towards this objective we had planned a three-day residential workshop for prospective support group leaders from different parts of Maharashtra.

Creating awareness

Publishing
To spread right information to more families about schizophrenia and allied mental disorders and their management, a book in Marathi has been published by us. This book, entitled “Schizophrenia, Ek Navi Janeev”(Please click here to post your order), received very encouraging response from cities like, Mumbai, Pune, Ahmednagar, Nashik, Nagpur etc. The same book is also available in Hindi titled “schizophrenia, Ek Naya Ehsaas”. A reference handbook for GPs, under the title “Divided Mind” (Please click here to post your order) has been published in English, containing articles by experts on various aspects of schizophrenia and its management. It is edited by Dr.Ulhas Luktuke, a leading practising psychiatrist of Pune. Many articles were also published in newspapers and magazines of Mumbai, Nashik, Nagpur, besides Pune, resulting in more families coming forward for availing of the services of SAA Ekalavya. Apart from this there are other publications like translated version of the book “Beautiful Mind” that are in process of completion.

sensitizing media persons
None can deny the impact media make on the society today. So to sensitize them to mental health care issues a pilot survey was commissioned by SAA. We plan to inform them suitably so as to enable them project the affected persons more objectively and factually through their work. On the other hand, media support by way of informative articles has already enabled hundreds of shubharthis and shubhankars from all over Maharashtra to know and avail of SAA’s services.

Awareness through films
SAA, along with it’s senior partner, K. S. Wani Memorial Trust, Dhule, produced first-ever feature film, Devrai (Sacred Grove), by a charitable organization on mental health. This movie, which won 17 regional/national/international awards in different categories, proved very appealing both to the professionals and affected families alike. The subsequent one, entitled, Majhi Goshta (My Story), also in Marathi, is a docu-drama in tele-cinematic format. “Very informative, realistic and touching” is the response of most of the viewers. Devrai is already available in vcd/dvd format.
Our latest Marathi feature film, EK CUP CHYA, is on how an ordinary citizen can use the power of RTI to deal with bureaucratic indifference while finding solutions to various challenges in his life. This movie, screened at various international film festivals, recently won the Zee Critics’ Award for best regional feature film of 2009.

Rehab cum Vocational Centre
It is every caregiver’s dream to once again make his shubharthi a self-reliant and confident individual. Therefore towards this objective we had already started this facility at the Kamala Nehru Hospital four years’ ago. About ten had enrolled there. Later on when Kamalini KritiBhavan, our own centre, was ready the rehabilitation activity was offered from Dhayari. This bright and beautiful Swanand Punarvasan Kendra, which has a capacity of 50 shubharthis, has twenty on role and are doing well.

Reaching the vulnerable
Our programmes aimed at youth, the most vulnerable age-group to be affected by Mental Illness, in schools and colleges have had desired impact. This is evident from their willing involvement in such seminars and subsequent voluntary services in SAA-Ekalavya’s activities. Timely and right awareness leads to earlier detection of symptoms, prompt medical intervention and quicker relief.

Other Activities
Growing beyond borders
SAA-Ekalavya is a founder member of India’s apex body of caregivers, the National Federation for Mentally Ill (NFMI) with HO at Chennai. Our delegates were also invited to speak at the international convention hosted by WFSAD at Kyoto-Japan in 2002 and at the Chennai national convention in 2003, again at the international convention at Chennai in November 2004 and at Recovery Inc.’s Leaders’ Training & Annual Meeting at Chicago in May 2005. Based on referrals by WFSAD we have also been encouraging caregivers of neighbouring countries by sharing our experience in SHG formation. Our website also has aroused and satisfied curiosity of netizens.

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