Medical experts, in an interactive webinar hosted by Citizens for Inclusive Living and Pushpanjali Trust on the eve of World Schizophrenia Day, spoke on Monday about the lack of government treatment and counseling facilities as well as social support for schizophrenic patients.
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that affects a person’s conception of reality and is characterized by recurrent episodes of psychosis and hallucinations, including hearing voices, delusions and paranoia.
Speaking of a high mid-treatment dropout rate, Professor of Psychiatry at the Postgraduate Institute for Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Dr. Sandeep Grover, said: “About half of patients with schizophrenia drop out without their doctor’s approval when they begin to feel better. .”
“Such behavior usually leads to a relapse and worsening of the disease. It is therefore important to listen to the doctor, because schizophrenia is a chronic disease that can be managed with medication but not cured,” he added.
Grover highlighted the vital role of carers, while pointing to negligible government support, saying, “About 95% of the financial cost is borne by carers who also live with severe stress, violence and societal stigma.” .
Figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest that schizophrenia affects nearly 24 million people worldwide. In northern India, the prevalence stands at 1.4% according to the National Mental Health Survey.
Schizophrenia Awareness Association, Pune, Past President Amrit Bakhshy, who himself is caring for an adult daughter with schizophrenia, also spoke about the various challenges faced by people with mental illness and their families.
Highlighting some of the systematic pitfalls, Bakhshy said, “The Mental Health Care Act contains several provisions ensuring affordable and free health care facilities for people with mental illnesses, but the Center and state governments have failed on these accounts. No separate budgetary provision is foreseen for the implementation of the law.
“It is essential that we form groups, create communities and remove social stigma. Many families cannot afford the expensive care homes and society should come forward to support them,” he added.
Webinar attendees, mostly students and caregivers, asked about disability treatment, certification and benefits, mental illness insurance, and residential group homes. The session was moderated by Vice President of Citizens for Inclusive Living, Dr Simmi Waraich, and Aditya Vikram, Managing Director of Pushpanjali Trust.