Relief India Trust, tackling the neglected issue of mental health 

‘If you are an underdog, mentally challenged, if you don’t fit in, if you are not as pretty as the others, you can still be a hero – Steve Guttenberg’.

by Akruti Sharma Tuesday, February 04, 2014
The first thing that one registers upon entering the premises of Relief India Trust’s ‘Rehabilitation Center for the Mentally Challenged’ center in Noida is a colourful poster on the wall of its main wing. It reads: ‘If you are an underdog, mentally challenged, if you don’t fit in, if you are not as pretty as the others, you can still be a hero – Steve Guttenberg’.
How a society treats its developmentally disabled is the true measure of its civilisation. Unfortunately in India, our approach towards mentally challenged individuals is slightly narrow-minded. At the most, we sympathize when we encounter a person with a serious lack of mental growth... and then move on, as if it never happened, forcing them to recede farther and farther into the background. With every day that goes by, such individuals become more and more invisible. There is a particular kind of pain, loneliness and terror involved in it. Most of us falter at calling attention to crucial-but-neglected issues.
The Government and the society at large have devoted vast coverage to political battles over health care, deservedly, but we don’t delve enough into underlying mental health issues that are crucial to national well-being. If we want to tackle a broad range of social pathologies and inequities, we as a society have to break taboos about mental health.
Relief India Trust is one such organisation which works towards providing accommodation, food, clothes and vocational training to children who, by birth or through accident, are mentally not equipped to fall into the mainstream of society for daily sustenance.
Some of the common problems the organisation encounters are autism, mental, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities and anxiety disorders. By tradition, medication and psychotherapy were the two major treatments given to those with psychiatric disabilities. Little attention was given to preventing or reducing functional limitations or handicaps to social performance. However, new mental rehabilitation strategies employed by Relief India Trust include community integration and making patients independent and able to deal with their situation.
“They are being given training in Khadi Spinning, Incense Stick, liquid soap and, hand wash and paper bag manufacturing. Cash Incentives are provided to enhance their motivational levels and increase their productivity and creativity. Regular cultural and sports competitions kindle their talents and capabilities. The work offers them a way to develop self-worth”, said Sunanda Shekhar, director of development at Relief India Trust.
She added: “They learn to cut the grass. They have to make their beds, wash their clothes and also learn how to cook food".
The center also imparts skill strengthening programme which involves teaching life coping skills, symptom management and resources to find a job when the time comes. Critical environmental support strengthening approaches include family behaviour management and the use of peer groups in the transition to community living.
They are also equipped with social skills, interpersonal skills, personal hygiene and self-care training. This includes dress and behaviour codes, rules about what to say and not to say, and stylistic guidelines about the expression of affection, social reinforcement, and interpersonal distance.
In a set up where there are hardly any government jobs for mentally challenged persons, minimal opportunities in private sectors and self-employment is constrained by financial issues, the Relief India Trust has provided the much-needed succour to these special individuals.

Aakruti is a freelance journalist and a full time blogger, writer and a photography enthusiast

0    submitted by Akruti Sharma
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