Psychiatrists find speedy recovery of mentally ill; dargah committee offers five acres for hospital

The Mental Health Clinic established at the Erwadi dargah in Ramanathapuram district, as part of a project to link spirituality with medicine to cure people of behavioural disorders, has tasted success.

Encouraged by the response, the dargah committee has offered five acres for building a 50-bed hospital. The concept is derived from the innovative Dawa-Dua (medicine-prayer) programme in Gujarat. Several people with behavioural disorders who turned up at the clinic showed signs of recovery as they were prompt in taking medicines and making follow-up visits.

According to Dr. C. Ramasubramanian, State Nodal Officer, District Mental Health Programme, the district psychiatrist visited the clinic thrice a week. It was an ancient belief that Dava and Dua could cure ailments faster. “We are providing worldclass composite mental health treatment, free of cost, to the patients without disturbing their religious faith and belief.”

The programme was also aimed at safeguarding the human rights of patients visiting the dargah for holistic care, providing them with treatment and creating awareness of mental health. Asylums in Erwadi made the headlines in 2001 when 25 patients, many fettered in chains, were charred to death in a fire.

Even after the government ordered the closure of many asylums, there was resistance to psychiatrists visiting the area. However, at the instance of the government, dargah committee members were taken to a place near Ahmedabad, Gujarat, three months ago. There, they had a firsthand experience of the Dawa-Dua project.

“They immediately agreed to provide space on the dargah premises for the clinic. The patients are cooperating well, taking medicines regularly and coming for follow-up checks as advised. It is just not the clinic, they also offer prayers in the dargah… They are showing signs of speedy recovery,” he said.

Dr. Ramasubramanian said the project would not be confined to Erwadi. “We are ready to establish the clinic at any place of worship, cutting across religious lines, where the mentally ill come for cure. The demand for psychiatric intervention was more, whereas the availability of qualified personnel was less.”

Quoting World Health Organisation’s reports, he said that at least 3 per cent of the Indians were suffering from mental illness, and depression would be the second largest ailment in the country by 2020. “But there are only 5,000 qualified psychiatrists and 2,500 psychologists. We are now reaching out to the mentally ill through community resources,” he said. A majority of the patients visiting the clinic belonged to the ‘below poverty line’ category.

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