Family and Community Support are Essential for Persons Living with Mental Illness

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In this episode of Mano Charchae, Dr B P Nirmala, Additional Professor, Dept. of  Psychiatry and Social Work, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) speaks about taking care of loved ones who are living with mental illnesses and conditions.
The role of family members is very important for patients while dealing with mental conditions. Family members can tend to neglect conversations about the conditions and their symptoms, thereby building a sense of stigma and silence around mental illness. Persons grappling with severe mental conditions are often asked to not talk about their condition, are stopped from performing even small chores, and are expected to just take their medication and rest. This can breed severe depression and scuttle their potential.
There are healthier and more supportive ways in which family members can help someone living with mental conditions. They can avoid restricting them too much and listen to them if they want to say anything. Dr Nirmala stresses that mental illnesses often do not have obvious symptoms and one has to observe closely to identify a condition. “So, if one notices any changes in behaviour, please talk to the person and take them to the hospital if necessary. Someone who knows about the patient well should be present at the hospital and should follow up on a regular basis,” she says.
When it comes to community support, everyone should attempt to give those struggling with mental conditions space and include them in all community activities. In more superstitious circles, people often suggest that these patients attend bhajan/prayer sessions, hit them with neem leaves to rid them of evil, and in some instances, get them married as a corrective measure. These blind beliefs are counterproductive and dangerous.
Good hospitals offer personal treatment and counselling, even to family members. At some establishments, environment treatment is also available, which involves taking the patients to Lalbhag or Cubbon Park. If the patient shows a talent for a certain activity, these professionals make sure that they get involved in such activities as well. Group activities are also available where they get to share about their lives.
There is a misconception that treatment for mental illness is available only at NIMHANS, which is incorrect. Support can be availed at taluk-level hospitals and at primary health centres as well.
Medicines form just one link in the support chain needed by patients. Moral support, encouragement, and love from family members and the larger community are essential as well.
Listen in for more…

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