Tamil Nadu

More half-way homes the need of the hour

After spending five years at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), Kanmani (name changed), in her 40s, is all set to move out to a half-way home. With treatment and occupational therapy helping her recover slowly, she has been employed for two years and will now take the next step towards gaining independence and re-integration.

A half-way home can help a person who has recovered from mental illness in more than one way. According to the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, governments are to provide a range of services required by those with mental illnesses, like the provision of half-way homes and sheltered accommodation, in addition to medical and psychiatric care.

Half-way homes are transitory residential centres for persons recovering from mental illness, who no longer require full services of a hospital, but are not yet ready for complete independent living. The objective of the facilities is to maintain the person’s mental health, while also developing and strengthening their capacity for independent or community living, said officials.

“Half-way homes make transition to community living easier. For a person with poor social support, who has been under complete institutional care at a mental health establishment, transition is easier through a half-way home, where there will be vocational rehabilitation, with minimum supervision. From a half-way home, they can move to their own residences or community housing units. For a resident, a half-way home can give them the skills and confidence needed to manage themselves as they are away from a structured hospital set up,” P. Poorna Chandrika, director of IMH, said.

In a novel programme, five half-way homes, which will be managed by select NGOs and staffed and managed through the District Mental Health Programme, are being set up in Tirupattur, Ramanathapuram, Tiruchi, Kanniyakumari and Madurai.

“What we need are more such models for rehabilitation and reintegration of those on the path to recovery,” she said.

Another government psychiatrist stressed the need for equipped half-way homes. There should be vocational trainers, psychologists and social workers. In a half-way home, patient’s relatives should be able to make visits. The concept of an asylum could slowly wean-out through half-way homes (where residents can stay for less than two years) and long-stay homes (for more than two years).

Dr. Chandrika said they had screened their residents as per guidelines issued by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for declaring a patient “fit for discharge” from mental health institutions. Thirty of them were found eligible to move to half-way homes.

An NGO representative, selected to manage a half-way home, said often, families were unwilling to take in persons who had recovered from mental illness. “This is where half-way homes play a vital role. We can concentrate on skill-oriented training that will help them get a livelihood,” he said.

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2021 11:25:12 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/more-half-way-homes-the-need-of-the-hour/article36954223.ece

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