How a suicide case led to humble beginning of rehabilitative psychiatric care

SRINAGAR: Ali (named changed) was a fine craftsman of Sozni work, but the delicate profession fetched him peanuts, forcing him to attempt suicide. Not once, twice or thrice, but ten times. His seriousness to end life’s miseries made him to jump into the Jhelum twice. His other suicide attempts were no less serious, but death evaded Ali all ten times. He landed in the Psychiatric Diseases Hospital here. In the only mental-care facility in Kashmir, a mixed therapy of love, care, and medicines saw him overcome the urge to find a short solution to his financial problems. Three months ago, when Ali was to return home fit and fine, a question troubled his psychiatrist Dr Arshad Hussain. “He had always battled with financial problems; his mother had sold half of the house they owned to meet the family expenses. When he was to go back, I thought of his future and that of his kids. And it was horrifying to imagine his children also landing in this hospital due to poverty. I asked myself ‘could we not help him’?” Dr Arshad said. Eagerness to lend Ali a helping hand motivated Dr Arshad to research for available options of financial assistance, giving in the process a possible start to the much needed rehabilitative psychiatric care in the Valley where mental trauma is very high. The hospital has roped in Khadi J&K and Village Industries Board (KVIC) and District Industries Centre (DIC) to provide easy loans, under New Delhi-sponsored Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme, to the cured psychiatric patients. The first formal interaction in this regard was held Wednesday between the cured patients and authorities from KVIC, DIC, and JK Bank in the hospital. “Psychiatric patients shall not be stigmatised. They can be productive and useful for the society like any other normal human being. Therefore, the treatment of psychiatric disease does not end here (in the hospital), but we have to show them the way to life once they leave this hospital. And I am glad we have taken a step in this direction,” Medical Superintendent of the hospital, Dr Mohammad Khalil said on the occasion. The start, however, appears unripe since the financial assistance option chosen by the hospital authorities doesn’t have a specific clause for the psychiatric disease patients. Consequently, the loopholes are galore and the risk involved is on the higher side given that the clientele may not be able to sustain a setback of any kind. “We are considering patients who are at least cured of 80 per cent of the mental sickness, but there is indeed risk involved in this process. We would not want that the burden of loans given to cured patients causes regeneration of their mental ailment,” executive officer of KVIC, Hafeezullah Shah, said. “So we suggest that a monitoring cell be constituted to help them withstand the pressure. Besides, we may take up the case of psychiatric patients with New Delhi to see if there is possibility of giving special financial assistance to them,” he added. Aware of the mental stress that the government-run schemes bring to even a normal person, the medicos have their fingers crossed because of the red-tape and bureaucratic hiccups. “We wanted to rehabilitate the patients who are cured in this hospital. And today we have succeeded because we have made a start. But we hope and pray that the process of financial assistance to these people will be smooth,” Dr Maqbool, who heads the Psychiatry Department of Government Medical College (GMC) here, said. While congratulating the Psychiatry Department for thinking of an “out of the box way” to rehabilitate patients, Principal GMC, Dr Rafiq Pampori, also hoped that the aspiring beneficiaries will be “guided properly”.