Mental health sector needs attention, says Dr Vatwani

ST Correspondent
Friday, 21 September 2018

Magsaysay awardee delivers Parulekar lecture

Pune: A lot needs to be done in the field of mental health in the country, said Dr Bharat Vatwani on Thursday. He was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay award 2018 for his work for mentally ill shelterless people.

Dr Vatwani was in the city to deliver the Dr Nanasaheb Parulekar lecture organised by the Sakal Media Group at the Modern College of Engineering in Shivajinagar.

He highlighted the psychiatrist per 1,000 patients ratio in India, which is steadily reducing. “In India, the ratio was 0.03 in 2011 and 0.4 in 2001. It is reducing every year. Due to brain drain, India’s finest psychiatrists are working abroad. The treatment gap is huge in cities,” said Dr Vatwani.

He said, “We are born in a country, where there are many issues. However, what matters is what we do to address them.”

“If your work is genuine, you don’t need the social media for publicity,” he said.
Through his organisation Shraddha, he has helped over 7,000 mentally ill people and helped them recover and go back home.

“It is important to spread awareness. The best way to do so is during reunion of families with destitutes. Through this, we tell people that mental illness can be treated. So proper care is more important. For us, out of 100, around 80 destitutes do get a very jolly reunion,” said Dr Vatwani.

He noted that many such people in the country need help. “It was published in the Journal of Psychiatry that  around 4 lakh people are mentally ill and living without any shelter in India. We have helped only a small fraction of such people. 

Hence, we have a huge gap to fill,” said Dr Vatwani.He added that around 1 per cent population suffers from schizophrenia. “Anyone can have this illness. In our organisation, we have two doctors from Delhi, who have schizophrenia,” said Dr Vatwani.

He said, “What we do in our organisation is that we help the patient in recovering from his physical and mental state. Then send them back to their homes.”

While narrating his struggle, he highlighted the stigma attached to mental illness. “Families trying to find their loved ones is a normal picture. However, destitutes are in a bad shape and identifying them becomes very difficult,” said Dr Vatwani.

He said there is a lot of awareness work that is going on. Many people are getting sensitised today. But a lot more is needed.

Dr Vatwani narrated that in one case, they had a patient who spoke a very different dialect of Punjabi. “We needed to contact social workers from all parts of the country so that we could at least communicate with him. That is the amount of awareness we need,” said Dr Vatwani.

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