With increasing urbanization, computerization and demands of daily life, the prevalence of mental illness is increasing at an alarming rate. It is predicted by WHO that by 2010, mental illness will be the second leading cause of morbidity in the world. India is no exception to this phenomenon. There are 40-50 million people in India who are affected by some form of mental illness. Every year more than 11,000 Schizophrenics are added every year. The majority of these individuals remain in the community under the care of their family members and they don’t receive treatment and care due to;
a)first point of approach is traditional and religious belief practice due to lack of awareness on mental health
b)non-availability of mental health services at primary care level
c)less availability of mental health services at secondary care level
d)over burden at tertiary care
Individuals who are experiencing mental ill health are at increased risk for destitution, for reasons such as wandering or being rejected by their families.
Socio-Cultural & Socio-Economic Issues:-
Multifaceted relationship between poverty, homelessness and mental illness
There is a circular relationship between destitution, poverty and mental illness in the sense that mental illness is both a cause and a consequence of homelessness and poverty (see diagram 1.1 below). For example, an individual who is living in conditions of poverty will be at increased risk for becoming homeless and experiencing mental health problems. Likewise, a destitute individual will be more likely to encounter mental health difficulties due to the stressors associated with life on the streets. Mental illness acts as a risk factor for both homelessness and poverty due to the detrimental effect that living with an untreated mental illness can have on an individual’s life and the lives of their family members. Indeed, a person with untreated mental illness is unlikely to be able to live their life productively and may be unable to sustain employment. Therefore, the individual and family will suffer financially, leading to poverty. Additionally, a common symptom of mental illness is wandering, which will often lead the individual into a life of poverty and destitution.
Homeless people with mental illness remain destitute for longer periods of time and have less contact with family and friends, especially when incomes and housing options for those living on the margins began to diminish rapidly. Even with proper care and medication, individuals with mental illness encounter more barriers to basic living and employment and tend to be in poorer physical condition than their healthy counterparts. Either the side effects of their medication limit their abilities to function normally or their physical situation has deteriorated due to the time they may have spent wandering the streets. Either way, the journey of recovery takes a long time and involves many challenges for the individual. It can be difficult enough for individuals with mental health difficulties to maintain activities of daily living, not to mention finding and keeping a job. As a consequence, humans with mental disability are often shunned by their families and society. Losing everything – their family, their mental stability, their entire identity – they are left to wander the streets.
While there may be many inadequacies in The Mental Health Act of 1987 and ethical challenges in its practice, this Act still provides the guidelines through which mental health care provision should operate and adhere to. The fact remains that there is a subsection of society, namely homeless persons with mental health issues, who require crisis intervention and a restoration of their right to live full lives.
In response to a PIL and High Court Judgment in Gujarat, funded by the Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Gujarat, MOU with Hospital for Mental Health, Ahmedabad for treatment, care and reunion of Wandering mentally ill and MOU with The Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad for helping them rescue such vulnerable people, adhering to Section 23 of the Mental Health Act, 1987 we have started “Aadhaar” a Helpline to rescue Wandering Mentally Ill in the city of Ahmedabad since 2011.
The Helpline Numbers are:
+91 9722 100 101
+91 9722 100 200
Timings: 09.00am to 06.00pm Monday to Saturday