World Schizophrenia Day

Next Tuesday(May 24) is World Schizophrenia Day. Schizophrenia is serious mental illness affecting significant percentage of world’s population. National Schizophrenia Foundation has declared May 24 as World Schizophrenia Day. May 24 is to honor Dr. Philippe Pinel, from France, a major figure in the early efforts to provide humane care and treatment for the mentally ill. Appointed chief physician at the men’s insane asylum in Paris in the late 18th century, Dr. Pinel was horrified to see the patients restrained to walls by chains. Although warned against it, Dr. Pinel took a bold and unprecedented move to remove the chains from the patients on May 24, 1793.

The purpose of this day is to spread awareness about this illness, eradicate the myths and superstitions around mental illnesses in general. Schizophrenia is a psychiatric condition where certain chemical fluids levels in certain areas of brain are out of balance, there by causing lack of co-ordination between thoughts, actions and emotions. The sooner it is detected, better are chances of recovering from it. I have been volunteering and support Schizophrenia Awareness Association(SAA) since 2009 in Pune and have written quite a few blogs on this subject.

In Pune, SAA organizes a public meeting every year on this day, to create public awareness about schizophrenia and other types of mental illnesses. The main feature of the public meeting is Late Aditya Pendse Memorial Lecture delivered by a distinguished personality who has contributed significantly in the field of mental health. Late Aditya Pendse in whose memory the lecture is delivered every year on 24th May suffered from schizophrenia till the unfortunate end of his life. His sister Vandana also suffered from schizophrenia and died an unnatural death along with her baby daughter.

This year, on Tuesday, the 24th May, the Late Aditya Pendse Memorial Lecture will be delivered by the distinguished psychiatrist Dr. R Thara, Director Schizophrenia Research Foundation Chennai. The subject of her talk is Mental Illness: Role of Families in Care and Recovery. The public meeting will be chaired by Mr.  Keshav Desiraju, former Health Secretary Government of India. He will speak on State’s Mental Health Initiatives in recent years. This public meeting will be held on Tuesday, the 24th May 2016 at 4.00 PM. The venue for the meeting is Maharashtra Education Society, Bal Shikshan, Mayur Colony, Kothrud, Pune. You are cordially invited to attend the it as above along with your interested friends and family members. SAA has been arranging this event every year since quite a few years now, and various dignitaries such Achyut Godbole, Anil Awachat, Rama Marathe, Vivek Patel have honored the occasion by addressing the gathering in the past.


In the process of treatment for persons with mental illness(PMI), the medicines and treatment as recommended by psychiatrists is important, and also equally important is counselling via self-help support groups(SHSG). They both play important role in recovery and rehabilitation. The family members who are care givers also need lending hand in this journey. This World Schizophrenia Day, let us all become sensitive to this disease and help people to come out of it.

If you are interested in knowing about mental illness and mental health, please feel free to look into other articles on my blog on this topic. Hoping to hear from you on that.

SAA YCM SHSG anniversary

२००९ मध्ये आकाशवाणी वरील एका कार्यक्रमामुळे मी पुण्यातील स्किझोफ्रेनिया अवेरनेस असोसिएशन(‘सा’) शी जोडलो गेलो. त्यांच्या वेगवेगळ्या कार्यक्रमाला उपस्थित राहणे, स्व-मदत गटाच्या बैठकांना हजर राहणे, आणि या ना त्या प्रकारे ‘सा’ च्या मूळ उद्दिष्टांच्या संदर्भात काही तरी योगदान देत राहणे सुरु होते. २०१२ च्या शेवटी शेवटी माझी ओळख भूषण कुलकर्णी यांच्याशी झाली. तसेच पिंपरी चिंचवड भागात असा स्व-मदत गट चालू करावा ही त्यांची इच्छा मला कळली. तो पर्यंत मी त्या दृष्टीने काही विचारच केला नव्हता. मी आणि भूषण कुलकर्णी मिळून नोव्हेंबर २०१३ मध्ये ‘सा’ तर्फे वाय सी एम मध्ये शुभांकारांसाठी मदत गट चालू केला. त्याला २०१४ मध्ये वर्ष होवून गेलं. नुकताच आम्ही पहिला वर्धापन दिन साजरा केला. त्याचा हा वृतांत आणि आढावा.

आमच्या मार्गदर्शिका आणि ‘सा’ च्या ज्येष्ठ सदस्य नीलिमाताई बापट यांनी प्रास्ताविक केले. ‘सा’ची सुरुवात, आणि त्याचे मानसिक आजार क्षेत्रातील स्थान बोलल्या. कार्यक्रमाचे अध्यक्ष डॉ. किशोर गुजर यांची ओळख करून दिली. डॉ. गुजर हे वाय सी एम च्या मानसोपचार विभागाचे प्रमुख आहेत. त्यानंतर डॉ. गुजर यांनी वाय सी एम मधील मानसोपचार विभागाचा आढावा घेतला. त्यांच्या व ‘सा’ च्या संबंधाबद्दल माहिती दिली. कार्यक्रमाचे प्रमुख पाहुणे डॉ. मनोहर धडफळे यांची ओळख करून दिली. डॉ. धडफळे यांना ५० वर्षांचा मानसोपचार क्षेत्रातील भारतात तसेच परदेशातील गाढ अनुभव आहे. ते वाय सी एम च्या मानसोपचार विभागात व्याख्याते म्हणून मार्गदर्शन करत असतात.

त्यानंतर मुख्य कार्यक्रमाला सुरुवात झाली. प्रथम आमच्या स्वमदत गटात येणाऱ्या काही शुभांकारनी त्यांचे अनुभव सांगितले. कामत, राजापुरे, नेकनारायण, भूषण कुलकर्णी यांनी त्यांच्या शुभार्थीबद्दल, त्याच्या एकूण प्रवासाबद्दल सांगितले. लाखापुरे यांनी मानसिक आजार आणि अंधश्रद्धा यावर त्यांचे अनुभव सांगितले. हे सर्व अतिशय हृद्य आणि उस्फुर्त अनुभव कथन झाले. माझ्या कथनात मी स्वमदत गटाचा आढावा घेतला. त्यानंतर,ज्याची सर्वांना खुपच उत्सुकता होती, ते डॉ. धडफळे यांचे बीजभाषण, तसेच मन मोकळा संवाद झाला. त्यांनी त्यांच्या इंग्लंडमधील आलेले अनुभव सांगितले आणि तेथे आता मानसिक आजारी व्यक्तीसाठी रुग्णालये जवळ जवळ नाहीत याबद्दल अतिशय रंजक माहिती दिली आणि अश्या व्यक्तींचे तेथील समाजातच कसे उपचार केले जातात याबद्दल सांगितले. ते पुढे म्हणाले की, ‘समाजात जशी जशी प्रगती होत जात आहे, तसे तसे मानसिक आजाराचे प्रमाण वाढत जाते. अंधश्रद्धाच्या मार्गाने न जाता, शास्त्रीय उपचार घेवून त्यावर मात करता येते’. त्यांनी स्वमदत गटाचे तसेच कुटुंबातील मदतीचे महत्व अधोरेखित केले. त्यांनी त्यांचे परदेशातील प्रामुख्याने केनियातील आणि इंग्लंड मधील अनुभव सांगितले. शासकीय पातळीवर मानसिक आजाराबद्दल वेगवेगळे कायदे आणि जागृती कार्याबद्दल त्यांनी सांगितले.

त्यानंतर शेवटी वाय सी एम चे प्रकाश जुकंतवार यांनी आभारप्रदर्शन केले आणि कार्यक्रम संपला. प्रकाश हे Psychiatric Social Worker म्हणून काम पाहतात. त्यांचा ह्या सर्व उपक्रमामध्ये प्रथम पासूनच अतिशय रस आणि सहकार्य मिळत गेले आहे.

आज उद्या करत, शेवटी नोव्हेबर २०१३ तिसऱ्या शनिवारी गट सुरु झाला आणि आता वर्षभर चालू आहे. आम्ही महिन्याच्या पहिल्या आणि तिसऱ्या शनिवारी येथे भेटतो. गेल्या नोव्हेबर मध्ये एक वर्ष होवून गेले. तेव्हा पासूनच हा कार्यक्रम करावा असा विचार चालू होता. आतापर्यंत आम्ही जवळ जवळ ६० शुभांकारांशी जोडलो गेलो आहोत. त्यातील कमीत कमी १०-१२ तरी असे आहेत की ते नियमित ह्या बैठकीना येत असतात. ही तर फक्त सुरुवात आहे. आमच्या पुढे बरीच आव्हाने आहेत. उदाहरणार्थ, प्रत्येक बैठकीमध्ये वाय सी एम मध्ये येणारे नवीन शुभंकर येत असतात, जी एका दृष्टीने(समाजात जागृती होण्याच्या) चांगली गोष्ट आहे. पण त्यामुळे, प्रत्येक बैठकीत आम्हाला नवीन शुभांकाराबरोबर वेळ घालवावा लागतो. तसेच त्यातील बरेच जण बाहेरगावचे असतात, आणि त्यांच्या बरोबर बऱ्याचदा शुभार्थी सुद्धा असतात. स्व-मदत आधार गटात काही ठोस कार्यक्रम करण्यास त्यातील शुभंकरानी नियमित येणे आवश्यक आहे, जेणेकरून एखादा विषय घेवून त्यावर दर वेळेस चर्चा करणे शक्य होत नाही. अश्या मुळे हवा तसा बदल अथवा फरक काही काळानंतर दिसू लागतो. ह्या समस्येवर थोडे विचार मंथन करून काही उपाय केले पाहीजे. शुभांकारामध्ये आपण एकटे नाही आहोत अशी भावना निर्माण करण्यासाठी करावे लागणारे उपक्रम आम्ही अजून सुरु करू शकलो नाही(जसे की सर्वानी मिळून बाहेर जाणे). तसे असले तरी सुद्धा आम्ही औषधांच्या किमती आणि वाय सी एम मध्ये त्यांची उपलब्धता यावर बरीच चर्चा आम्ही करू शकलो आणि तो विषय बराच पुढे गेला आहे असे म्हणू शकतो. नीलिमाताई आमच्याबरोबर प्रत्येक वेळी असतात, पण त्याही कधी ना कधी थांबणार आहेत आणि हा गट आपल्यालाच सुरु ठेवायचा आहे याचे भानही आहे. ह्या अडचणीवर मात करून, शुभार्थीसाठीही गट सुरु करायचा आहे. ह्या भागात कार्यशाळा आणि इतर उपक्रम राबवायचे आहेत. पिंपरी चिंचवड भागातील औद्योगिक क्षेत्रातील संस्थांचा सहभाग करून घेवून शुभार्थींच्या पुनर्वसनाबाबतीत काम करायचे आहे. पाहुयात कसे काय जमते ते.

जाता जाता स्वमदत गटात म्हटली जाणारी प्रार्थना येथे देतो. ही प्रार्थना Serenity Prayer चे भाषांतर आहे.

जे टाळणे अशक्य ते शक्ती दे सहाया, जे शक्य साध्य आहे निर्धार दे कराया|

मज काय शक्य आहे, आहे अशक्य काय, माझे मला कळाया दे बुद्धी देवराया||

SAA SHSG at YCM Hospital in Pimpri

I have written in the past about Schizophrenia Awareness Association(SAA) and its activities on this blog. As you know, their activities are concentrated mainly in and around Pune city as the center is located in Dhayari in Pune. I and Bhushan, who live in PCMC area, always felt the need for such a center in PCMC area to cater to the needs of shubharthis and shubhankars in this area. When approached SAA officials on the proposal, not only they supported us, but also ensured that we get formally trained in running such groups, and also helping bootstrapping it.

I am glad to inform you that SAA has been running SHSG for shubhankars in collaboration with YCM Hospital in Pimpri for last one year now. Myself, Bhushan, Neelima Bapat, Smita Godse have been involved in coordinating, facilitating and running this group. Guidance, support and help of Dr Kishor Gujar and Prakash Jukantwar has been pivotal in running of this group at YCM Hospital’s premises.

We have begun having SHSG group for shubhakars right now. Later we have plans to start one for shubharthis. Currently, this group meets twice a month(once once first Saturday and later on third Saturday), during 11.45 am to 1.30 pm. We have so far over 50 shubhankars registered and have been availing the facility.

It is needless to say that PCMC area also needed such facility to compliment work of psychiatrists at YCM or other independent practitioners. We, as volunteers of SAA, are encouraged by the response we have got so far.

We will soon be organizing a formal inauguration function. I will update on that as the details are finalized. My sincere appeal to you all is to spread the availability of such facility in PCMC and Pune area to all those unfortunate ones in the society you think need help.

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

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

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.