A sample survey undertaken in 20 tribal hamlets of Attappady recently found a total of 75 persons affected by mental illness.

It found that most of the patients are in their twenties (30 per cent) and thirties (30 per cent). They were the bread winners for their families.

The disorders range from frank psychosis to mood disorders. Schizophrenia is the most common condition, said Dr. Narayanan, Chief Medical Officer and Trustee of Swami Vivekananda Medical Mission, Agali, who led the survey.

He said that an estimate made on mental patients among tribal population of Attappady shows that there are more than 500 people having serious mental disorders.

A majority of the patients (85 per cent) have not received any treatment at all. Many of those who had begun their treatment at the District Hospital, Palakkad or at Medical College hospitals at Thrissur and Kozhikode have discontinued it.

All patients are from poor socio-economic backgrounds and find it difficult to buy the costly psychiatric medicines on a regular basis, Dr. Narayanan said.

There is very poor awareness regarding mental illness among the tribal population, he said.

Though treatment of mental patients at Swami Vivekananda Medical Mission Hospital started from October, 2008, a systematic identification of patients started only in March 2009 due to shortage of funds.

Dr. Narayanan said that the results of treatment were very encouraging. Of the 30 patients with severe mental disorders, 23 showed good drug compliance. A majority of the treated patients were leading a normal life, he said.