Kerala branch of the Indian Psychiatric Society has called immediate governmental intervention to put an end to the anarchical situation prevailing in the mental health dispensation system in the State.
Referring to the Thrissur incident where mental patients were allegedly ill treated and exploited at an unauthorised rehabilitation centre, , Varghese Punnoose, general secretary, said that the very fact that mental patients had reached unauthorized centres and that they were subjected to gross exploitation there, points to the anarchical situation prevailing in the State. “This is happening at a time when it is universally accepted that early detection and treatment would help mental health problems from going into such deplorable situations,” he said
Dr Punnoose wanted the authorities to take immediate action to identify all unauthorized centres. This can be done by empowering the respective district medical officers, through an executive order, to identify such centres. With a large network of primary health centres it was easy for the DMOs to identify such centres, he said. However, many of these Centres who function outside the authority have local criminal nexus and as such the DMOs should be provided with police and Revenue department help, he pointed out.
Dr Punnose also wanted the government to expedite the licensing process for starting mental health care centre by non governmental organizations. Since of such applicants are genuine. It is the criminal nexus who want to function outside government authority,” he said.
However, taking a long term view of the issues involved, Dr Punnoose said the exploitation of the patients could be addressed to an extent if rehabilitation centres could be started under the auspices of the local bodies at the panchayat level. “It is not proper for the government to hand over the responsibilities to non governmental sector and withdraw from responsibilities.”
We can bring mental health treatment to the grass roots level by effective implementation of District Mental Health Programme (DMJP) already in place in many of the districts, in Kerala, Dr Punnoose said.
“While we have formed a State Mental Health Authority in line with the provisions of the National Mental Health Act (1987), it has so far not been able to complete the licensing process for the rehabilitation centres,”. That incidents like the one that had happened in Thrissur still occur in Kerala points to the ineffectiveness of the Authority, he added.
According to him, one of the core causative factors in the recurring incidence of such episodes was the ignorance on mental health issues among the society “This has resulted in a situation where in spite of having strong legal support for scientific treatment and human rights protection of the mentally ill people, we have not been able to implement them effectively,” Dr Punnoose said.