Remember ME - You Me and Dementia

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Rescuer

Last month, when the city woke up to news of a father having confined his adult daughters to a single room for several years, permitting them little contact with the outside world, one simple man in distant Vasai was already receiving a flood of calls and he was patiently attending to each one, meticulously noting down information regarding several psychologically disturbed people whose families felt the man who rescued Teresa, Elizabeth and Barbara Gomes would help them.

R Gopalkrishana, the 50-year-old social activist in the distant suburbs, has been running an organisation for the mentally ill for several years.

“A 27-year-old organization, the Anand Rehabilitation Centre, has been serving thousands of people. Gomes was a difficult but surely not the toughest case that we dealt with,” says Gopalkrishana, who has since then been trying to help over ten other families who have approached him describing situations that only qualified mental health professionals would be equipped to handle.

Francis Gomes, painted as a criminal initially, is himself now acknowledged as a person with an acute mental disorder, paranoid schizophrenia.

Gopalkrishana, a commerce graduate with no medical education, recalls a two-decade old incident that forced him to think about the issue of health. “My cousin, who was suffering from brain tumor, was hospitalized in a city hospital. Even after staying in Mumbai all my life I had to run from pillar to post arranging bed and bread for my cousin. The incident left me disturbed for several months before I finally decided to help patients travelling to Mumbai from other cities and states seeking medical help and slowly specialized in mental health cases,” says Gopalkrishana. Today, the rehabilitation centre spread across a 5000-sq. feet area in Nallasopara houses as many as 100 patients from across the country, all suffering from illnesses like schizophrenia, dementia, Alzheimer’s and other ailments.

“It’s apathy that a mentally unwell person is not treated as a patient and his deeds are considered as a crime. Like fever is a normal symptom for a patient suffering from malaria, a mentally deranged man will behave obsessive and on several occasions get violent. Society needs to grow more sensitive along with the police,” explains Gopalkrishana.

Very recently, Gopalkrishana received a call from a housing society in Borivali seeking his help to “evict a house”. “A mentally deranged single mother residing with her only son has resorted to similar behavior like Gomes. She has tried to abuse the neighbours and has confined her son to the house. However, the neighbours see it just as a case of nuisance and want to get rid of it,” Gopalkrishana says. “We need to realise that mental illness can be treated and isolating and ill-treating such patients only aggravates the problem. In Gomes’ case too, we involved police only to seek legal help for the family, but they threw Gomes into jail without offering him medical support.”

While the Gomes incident has initiated a debate, Gopalkrishana hopes more and more families acknowledge mental illness and not try to keep problems under wraps until it’s too late.

Anand Rehabilitation
Centre 0251- 2414145/ 2405060

By Sukanya Shetty

Source: Indian Express,Mumbai 25th Oct 2009

Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

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