Right at the main entrance to the forbidding edifice of the Government Mental Health Centre at Kuthiravattom here is a small building where a group of men are busy making envelopes, cartons, and paper files, and printing notebooks during lunch hour.
This is a rehabilitation centre run by the Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (IMHANS) for patients cured of their illness.
Among them is Nasser (name changed), in his late fifties, for whom the centre is the only bright spot in an otherwise lonely existence.
About 15 years ago, he was discharged for murder after the court found him mentally ill. Nasser was brought to the Kuthiravattom centre for treatment and safe custody. Days passed in a blur as a resident at the hospital, his mind dazed by medication.
Today, his schizophrenia is under control. As per the law, relatives can now take him home provided they sign a bond promising that he will be kept in safe custody and his medication will be continued. But so far no one has come, and he continues to stay on at the mental hospital.
Nasser walks in every morning from Ward 2 to join others like him to make medicine covers, stock registers, notebooks, among other items.
“There are many who have nowhere to go. There are also others who have gone back to their homes and for whom the work here is a means of sustenance for their families. This is part of the community mental health programmes we have been working at for years,” P. Krishnakumar, IMHANS Director, said.
Started in July 1989, the centre has 250 rehabilitated patients working across three branches at Balussery, Feroke, and Malappuram. Those of them who cannot come for work at the centre are delivered raw materials at their doorsteps. Bus concession passes are available for those coming from outside the hospital for work at the centre.
A patient can earn up to Rs.200 a day. This year, the venture recorded a whopping Rs.82 lakh turnover with major clients including the State Health Department and the University of Calicut, for which it produces the trademark ‘Kairali’ notebooks.
But the going had not always been so smooth.
‘Jalakam,’ an in-house magazine published by IMHANS in 2012, details the early years of the rehabilitation venture.
“Nobody wanted to buy products made by mentally ill persons,” it says. The staff at IMHANS used to go from door to door with their products.
The first recognition of the centre’s role in mental health came in March 1994 when the Kozhikode District Collector allowed Rs.1.65 lakh from the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe fund. More government funds have been allowed over the years.