Maher away from home for abandoned mental patients

Cries of "Mala ghari jayche aahe..." (I want to go home) echoes through the corridors of Regional Mental Hospital at Yerawada. But no one's coming for them. At least none of their relatives cares to even pay them a visit and they clearly don't want them back.

About 100-such abandoned patients have been staying at this hospital for as long as 10 to 15 years. There is not much the hospital can do after the patients recover. Then when no relatives turn up to take them home, solace comes in the form of an NGO.

Maher (mother's home) is one such NGO. It has recently adopted nine women from the mental hospital, says the NGO's founder Sister Lucy Kurien.

She started Maher in the village of Vadhu Budruk near Bhima Koregaon on Ahmednagar Highway. Noe it caters to 225 women and 717 children, "We have nine such women from the mental hospital, out of which three now work at a mall."

According to Dr Vilas Bhailume, medical superintendent of the mental hospital, every day more than 30-40 letters are sent to relatives of the patients asking them to take them home. "But there is no response from them."

A visitors' committee that comprises a judge and Yerawada jail superintendent then take a serious look at the patients to assess their condition before they are discharged and personally escorted to their homes.

On several occasions, the relatives fail to handle them and bring the back to the institution. "So we have over 100 such patients who have been staying here for a long period of time," Dr Bhailume said.

Sister Lucy Kurien, who has been helping marginalised women gain modest employment at Maher, said that out of the nine women now adopted by them, three have got jobs. However, three others, who are in their late 50s, are in no condition to work. One of them has arthritis, another is blind in one eye and they have to be looked after by a nurse.

She cited the case of 35-year-old Lata (name changed), who lived a nightmarish existence on the streets, eating from dustbins after her brother and his wife threw her out.

Parivartan, an NGO followed up on her treatment after she was sent to the mental institution where she was diagnosed with psychosis. After three months of treatment and a fast recovery, she was sent to Maher's Vatsalyadham, where Lata now helps out with various chores.

Sister Kurien, who has received the Global Women Summits' prestigious Leadership Award in 2011 and has even been featured in the book "Women healing women, a model of hope for oppressed women everywhere" co-authored by two American writers William Keepin and Cynthia Brix, told Newsline that medication alone cannot help these women; what they need are constant love and care of people around them.

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