Programmes that marked World Mental Health Day in Madurai

A Signature Campaign at Mattuthavani on Monday sought the support of general public for the welfare of the mentally challenged persons.

“Please do not discriminate mentally challenged persons. Respect them as part of the society.” -- students of MSW from Fatima College were heard exhorting all.

Unlike other signature campaigns, this one was unique. The students not only explained their mission but also asked people’s consent whether he or she was ready to take an oath to support mentally challenged persons.

“If they agreed to the message and were willing to take oath, students collected their signatures in a form,” said A. Jeyapaul, coordinator, Bethshan Special School. “We have a plan to reach out to at least two lakh people. The year before last, we collected 60,000 signatures.”

To mark the World Mental Health Day (October 10), Bethshan Special School organised the campaign at Mattuthavani Bus Stand, Periyar Bus Stand and Collectorate premises between October 8 and 10. Students from Fatima College, Vellaichamy Nadar College and CSI Nursing College helped in collecting signatures from members of public.

The school is also organising awareness programmes on mental retardation in various women colleges continuously. Jeyapaul says they have taken this awareness initiative to dispel myths and beliefs related to mental retardation.

People believe that giving birth to a mentally challenged child is the result of sin that family had committed in the past birth. Similarly, they also believe that marrying off a girl or boy would solve theproblem. Whereas, in reality the possibilities of begetting mentally retarded child is more as it is hereditary.

He says the reason for mental retardation in the child involves various factors like - consanguineous marriages, self medication, home and forceps delivery and delivering babies below 18 years or after 35 years. “We concentrate on women colleges. If they are aware of the causes and consequences, perhaps they can reduce the mishaps of delivering mentally retarded children.”

With a similar idea of teaching people the basic difference between mental illness and mental retardation, the M.S.Chellamuthu Trust and Research Foundation also launched a mass awareness campaign on Wednesday. Pamphlets giving out basic information were distributed randomly at railway stations and bus depots, traffic junctions and police stations, cinema halls and malls and busy market places. “The idea is to reach and sensitise as many people as possible,” said a staffer.

Mental Health Literacy Campaign was also launched in two city colleges. During the year, 25 more colleges of MKU will be covered under the programme that aims at educating youths how to identify key mental health issues, how and where to refer mentally ill patients and more.