With nine Institute of Mental Health residents on board, RVIVE Cafe takes off

It’s an initiative by the institute and Hot Breads to reduce stigma surrounding mental illness

Published - September 01, 2021 01:39 am IST - CHENNAI

A new lease of life:  Residents of the Institute of Mental Health working at the RVIVE Cafe on Tuesday.

A new lease of life: Residents of the Institute of Mental Health working at the RVIVE Cafe on Tuesday.

Aruna (name changed) is happy to work all day. After living on the campus of the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) for more than a decade, stepping out for work is no small deal for her. Her excitement was palpable as she served customers with baked goodies and hot beverages. For her, being employed meant being independent.

She is among nine residents of IMH, who have been brought aboard RVIVE Cafe, a collaborative initiative of the IMH and Hot Breads on the institute’s outpatient premises in Ayanavaram. “Our residents, who have improved with treatment, work at the cafe in two shifts. They love their jobs. For instance, Aruna, who has been with us since 2010, feels independent and wants to save money from her salary to buy jewels,” P. Poorna Chandrika, director of IMH, said.

Some of these residents had earlier worked at Winners Bakery and Writer’s Cafe, she said, adding that they were unable to travel during the lockdown. “RVIVE Cafe is an initiative that will help us to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness among the public. This place is known for the Kilpauk mental hospital, but the landscape has changed. IMH has working patients now. This gives us an opportunity to make people see for themselves. Here are stories of positivity and resilience behind the homeless mentally ill patients of IMH,” she said.

A differently abled person has also been employed at the cafe’s counter. Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan, who visited the cafe on Tuesday, said such an initiative helped in addressing stigma, and offered an opportunity for IMH residents. “The ambience is great. The larger goal of having such an inclusive set-up is to enable people to come and see for themselves how persons with mental illness recover and contribute to the society. From institutional care, they can be re-integrated into the society,” he said.

He said that by bringing in a brand value and quality, it was a win-win situation for all. “The cafe will be formally launched soon,” he added.

Restaurateur M. Mahadevan, founder of Hot Breads, said they had brought nine in-patients and out-patients on board with training. “Once we start on a bigger scale, we can train and take in more persons. We want the initiative to be sustainable and will give back the profit for the welfare of IMH residents,” he said.

Hot Breads runs zero-profit community bakeries — Freedom Bakery at Puzhal Prison, Winners Bakery with Chennai Corporation, Give Life Care at the Loyola College and Popcause with the Spastics Society of Tamil Nadu. “We earlier observed how these residents worked at Writer’s Cafe. We are trying to uplift them through RVIVE, a zero-profit cafe-cum-bakery. We will absorb them depending on their capacity both in production and service,” he added.

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