FROM WARD TO SO­CIAL RE­WARD

RATNABOLI RAY’S AN­JALI HELPS MEN­TAL HOS­PI­TAL IN­MATES UN­DER­STAND THEIR WORTH AND LIVE A DIG­NI­FIED LIFE.

Business Today - - IMPACT WOMEN - By SONAL KHETARPAL

AAS RATNABOLI RAY en­ters the male ward of the men­tal in­sti­tu­tion at Pavlov Hos­pi­tal, a man in his 40s comes to greet her, ra­di­ant with his new pur­chase – a gold ear­ring. It might be a small item, but for some­one who was once an in­mate at the in­sti­tu­tion, it is a nov­elty. Subroto (name changed) is now lead­ing the block print­ing unit at Pavlov, as part of the in­sti­tute’s liveli­hood pro­gramme spear­headed by Ray’s men­tal health rights or­gan­i­sa­tion An­jali.

A new skill, how­ever small, is a cru­cial part of in­te­grat­ing pa­tients back into so­ci­ety. “A sense of self is the most im­por­tant as­pect of re­cov­ery be­cause with it comes their sense of iden­tity,” ex­plains Ray. Due to the stigma at­tached to men­tal health, of­ten fam­i­lies don’t ac­cept them back even if they are re­cov­ered. “As a re­sult, they for­get who they are and start re­fer­ring to them­selves by their pa­tient num­ber.”

Re­al­is­ing lack of aware­ness around men­tal health, Ray, a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist by train­ing, started her jour­ney as a men­tal health ac­tivist in 1999. While many or­gan­i­sa­tions are work­ing on men­tal health, she iden­ti­fied the need to work with the state for a sys­temic change in men­tal health care.

She started work­ing at Pavlov, West Ben­gal’s largest men­tal hos­pi­tal in 1999. Ini­tially, hos­pi­tal staff op­posed the change, think­ing she will take away their jobs, but later she re­ceived due recog­ni­tion. “There was a lot of re­sis­tance as it was be­lieved they will not be able to take the pres­sure, but these ini­tia­tives have given them a sense of worth. It makes them aware of their rights and gives them the con­fi­dence to in­ter­act with so­ci­ety,” says Ray. The state gov­ern­ment in­vited her to work at four other in­sti­tu­tions.

WHY SHE MAT­TERS She is trans­form­ing lives of men­tal health pa­tients who are marginalised by so­ci­ety

Six women in­mates run the hos­pi­tal can­teen, while 26 work at Dhobi Ghar where Pavlov Hos­pi­tal gives them the laun­dry in­stead of out­sourc­ing it.

Over the years, An­jali has moved from a ser­vice de­liv­ery plat­form of­fer­ing re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and rein­te­gra­tion ser­vices to peo­ple with psy­choso­cial dis­abil­ity, to an ad­vo­cacy or­gan­i­sa­tion fight­ing for their rights. Ray fought to en­sure no co­er­cive meth­ods or elec­troshock treat­ments are ad­min­is­tered with­out pa­tients’con­sent and anaes­the­sia.

Ray re­alised un­less the taboos sur­round­ing men­tal health are dis­pelled, all rein­te­gra­tion ef­forts and pol­icy changes would re­main in­ef­fec­tive. Through their lat­est project – Jana­manas Pro­gramme, An­jali is try­ing to cre­ate peer-led sup­port sys­tems in dis­tricts. They con­duct work­shops to train women as bare­foot coun­sel­lors so that they can take re­spon­si­bil­ity for the psy­choso­cial health of their com­mu­nity. These women also ad­vo­cate for the in­clu­sion of peo­ple with psy­choso­cial dis­abil­i­ties into ser­vices and fa­cil­i­ties. An­jali has trained around 500 women till now.

“We need more such An­jalis to push forward the agenda to make the voices of the voice­less heard and the faces of the in­vis­i­ble seen,” says Ray.

RATNABOLI RAY FOUNDER,AN­JALI

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