24 May 2008
By Rupa Chapalgaonkar
On the occasion of World Schizophrenia Day, the Schizophrenia Support Group expresses the concerns faced by caregivers and people suffering from this disorder
There are many such youngsters afflicted with schizophrenia and who are subjected to humiliating treatment by their bosses, colleagues and society. Unfortunately the illness is likely to strike one at the most productive age of human development, between 16 and 25 years of age.
Statistics show that one per cent of the population is affected by the disorder. This fact worries caregivers of patients suffering from this illness and they are increasingly concerned about rehabilitation, medical treatment and counselling facilities for patients.
One such caregiver group in Pune is the Schizophrenia Support Group. The illness strikes at a young age and although chances of returning to normalcy do exist, the road to recovery could be very long and difficult. “Counselling plays an important role in treating people with schizophrenia”, says Anil Vartak, secretary, Schizophrenia Awareness Association (SAA), a parent body to which the support group belongs. Unfortunately, he adds, there are merely 3,000 registered psychiatrists in the country.
“Most of these psychiatrists do not have time for counselling. And, if there is time, counselling sessions are very expensive”, he explains. The fees for one counselling session ranges between Rs 600 and Rs 800. “There is a pressing need to bring down the cost to help people with schizophrenia. This can only happen if the government decides to subsidise the cost of medicines used to treat the patients”, says Veena Tandon, co–ordinator, Schizophrenia Support Group, Pune.
According to Tandon, family members on an average have to spend Rs 3,000 a month on medication for the patient.
Although organisations like SAA have been running day care centres for people with schizophrenia, one important fact remains unsolved. Who will take care of the patient after the caregiver? “The government needs to consider a full time rehabilitation centre for schizophrenics”, says Vartak, pointing out the apathy shown towards mental illnesses by everyone, even large hospitals.
While, very little can be expected from the government or private hospitals, members of SAA are banking on large corporate houses to fund rehab facilities for schizophrenia patients. “We are ready to help them in every way, but we need strong financial backing”, says Tandon.
Last but not least, caregivers expect sensitisation of society towards people with schizophrenia. Stating that 25 per cent of patients can be treated completely, Tandon feels the need of the hour is to bring them into the mainstream. Because the illness generally affects bright youngsters, she wants corporate houses to consider giving concessions to employees with the illness.
For now, caregivers want society at large to alter its approach towards people with schizophrenia. “The support group is continuously working towards increasing acceptance of the patients in the society”, she concludes.
What is schizophrenia?
According to SAA’s definition, schizophrenia is a brain disorder affecting about one per cent of the population worldwide. The sufferer has some or many of the following symptoms: Social withdrawal and isolation Unusual preoccupation with religion Hostility, suspicion, fearfulness Deterioration in personal hygienic Flat expressionless gaze Over–reaction to peer or family disapproval Those who wish to know more about SAA and its support group can contact 020–64700920