Community Mental Health Project

The Problem of Mental Illness

There is a very high prevalence of mental disorders among the tribes of Attappady. The problem has not been subjected to scientific study and analysis by any agency. A comprehensive survey conducted in 2010 in 165 hamlets of Attappady has brought out the high number of mentally ill people in each hamlet.

The survey also revealed the following.
  1. The disorders range from frank psychosis to mood disorders. Schizophrenia is the most common condition.
  2. A majority of the patients have not received any treatment at all.
  3. Many of those who had their treatment started at Medical college hospitals at Thrissur or Calicut have discontinued it. All of the patients are from a poor socio economic background and find it difficult to buy the costly psychiatric medicines on a regular basis.
  4. Most of the patients are in their twenties and thirties .They were the bread winners for their families.
  5. There is very poor awareness regarding mental illness among the tribal population.

There is a large number of wandering and neglected patients. The scenario is worsened by the emergence of new patients every year. Consumption of liquor, widespread use of Ganja, insecurities in the family, all seem to play major roles in promoting the emergence of these disorders among the tribes of Attappady. A large number of suicides are being reported in Attappady every month, especially from the tribal population. There has not been any scientific study regarding the size of the problem of mental illness or the reasons there of.

Project Highlights

Community Mental Health Project in Attappady was started in March 2009.It was started by Swami Vivekananda Medical Mission with technical assistance from the Department of Psychiatry, Government Medical College, Thrissur. Though treatment of patients started in March, the project was formally inaugurated on 23rdNovember 2009 by reputed poet and social worker, Srimathi P.Sugathakumari.

Mentally ill persons receive treatment from the primary OPD of Swami Vivekananda Medical Mission Hospital at Agali. Regular treatment is given by primary care doctor. The patients are given free medicines for a month at each visit. All visits are documented in the patient’s case sheet. Drug compliance and follow up visits are monitored by a team of village health workers, coordinators and a Medical Social  Worker at the hospital. Defaulters are identified early and brought back for treatment. New patients are referred either by village health workers or by relatives of old patients. Home visits are conducted by doctors and social workers.

Out of 220 registered patients with Severe mental disorders, about 120 patients are on regular follow up. About 100 patients with common mental disorders like anxiety disorder, depression are also getting regular treatment under the project.

MEHAC (Mental Health and Action) trust, Kochi, has been a partner in the Community Mental Health Project since 2011 to provide quality mental health care to the community. Dr.Chitra Venkiteswaran and her team of social workers from MEHAC are visiting our hospital every month to conduct a psychiatric clinic. Patients needing expert psychiatric care are given treatment in this clinic.

Capacity Building

Regular training programmes for Mental Health Volunteers  and Village health Workers have been held since the inception of this programme.The workers have been trained about the symptoms of mental illness, the efficacy of treatment and regular medication. They have been motivated to provide support to patients and their families. The family members are also  called for regular meetings in which they share their experiences and gain more insight into the treatment of mental illnesses.

Survey of Severe Mental Illness

A Comprehensive survey of Mental illness in Attappady was inaugurated by Dr.P.R. Karunakaran District Medical Officer, Palakkad on 15th January 2010. The survey was conducted by Village Mental Health Volunteers.

The survey was completed by 31st March 2010.

The survey was conducted by about 60 volunteers. They were trained on the methodology and logistics.

Benefits of the Project

Patients can avail of treatment for mental illness at a general health centre. A large number of poor tribes with mental illness so far untreated have access to quality treatment free of cost.

Regular supply of medicines is assured.

Regular follow up and good drug compliance provides better recovery.

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