Many men and women admitted to Kashmir’s only mental hospital were forgotten by their families after they got well. Zeenish Imroz and Irtiza Rafiq interacted with the social workers and the doctors at the hospital to piece together efforts they make in reuniting these abandoned individuals with their families
“Don’t shift to Ward 3” reads the green Medical Record Department (MRD) file of Naveed, 22, a patient at Institute of Medical Health and Neuro-Sciences (IMHANS), Rainawari, Srinagar. Ward 3, is a closed ward where the male patients without attendants are kept.
Son of a State Forest Corporation employee from Baderwah (Doda), Naveed was first admitted to IMHANS on January 3, 2014, for drug-induced psychosis. Three months later, his condition had improved. Records make a mention of his Mental Status Examination on April 17, 2014, stating the patient to be “conscious, co-operative and oriented with time, place and person but sad, denying any abnormal perception.”
His family, however, was reluctant to take him home. Records said his father’s phone remained mostly switched off. Naveed himself explained his crisis: his father considered him a hindrance in his way of drinking. Regularly, he told his doctors, his father would throw him out of the home during nights so that he could drink.
Somehow, he was discharged on May 17, 2014, and his cousin took him home. Within a year, he was back to IMHANS. Reason: his father disagreed with doctors that his son has improved. He sought a direction from higher officials for his son to be shifted to IMHANS. Again, the treatment was repeated and Naveed improved. Despite the change, he is still in the hospital.
A heartbroken Naveed said: “Dil bilkul khush nai rehta. Ab tou charas bhi Nahi Karta, Ghar waale zabardasti yahan rakhte hain, wapis Jaane do.” (My heart is not happy at all. I don’t even do drugs now, but my family forcibly keeps me here, let me go back). A three-year-long stay has deteriorated his mood, as medical records suggest, from sad to depressed.
“We called his father several times to take his son home but he rudely reacted, even gone to the extent of saying that the hospital belongs to the government and his son will live there,” Farooq Ahmad, the hospital’s Social Worker said. “We informed the police, even the legal cell got involved, but all in vain. After his desperation to return home was not met, his condition deteriorated to the extent that he became insane and since January 17, he is in Hamam, a place for aggressive lunatics.”
Naveed’s psychosis was drug induced. But there are individuals who became patients simply because they were present at the wrong place, at the wrong time.
Ghulam Hassan, 32, is a shepherd from Bijbehara. He was driven to the hospital by Uri Police station in 2013. Found close to Line of Control (LoC), Hassan was arrested and tortured following which he suffered from trauma. The impact of the torture was such that he didn’t talk for the first six years of his stay at IMHANS. Once, when he talked the ward nurse mistook the dialect that belonged to Pakistan. Then he shouted: Sallar Kollar. And finally, IMHANS knew where from he actually is.
Sajjad Ahmed, another social worker at IMHANS, started hunting for his family in Pahalgam, and eventually traced them. “On the Sallar-Kollar road, I went from tent to tent in a Bakerwal camping spot in Dachinpora belt, showing his picture and seeking clues about Hassan’s family and finally I came to know that his clan puts up in Shopian,” Sajjad said. “Then, I found out that Hassan’s brother was working in the city and when contact was established with his brother, he came to take him home,” said Sajjad Ahmed.
Hassan may have his own story but the fact is that the mental crisis of individuals may not necessary be a genetic inheritance. It could have contributions from individuals and institutions which usually go unpunished.
Masoom is from West Bengal. Her friend invited her to a Kashmir trip but sold her as a domestic help to an influential family in Rajbagh. Her “owner” sexually abused her and finally threw her away, literally from a window, in 2014. She was handed over to the police with a claim that she was mentally retarded.
Masoom, according to her medical records, did not exhibit any serious symptoms of a mental disorder. She was just a low IQ girl and mostly silent.
After two years of treatment and confidence building, she finally broke her silence. She identified herself from West Bengal and narrated her painful story. Her family was traced by the IMHANS social workers with the help of internet and the Police. She was sent home after three years. But her culprits still roam free.
Masoom is not the only person whom IMHANS helped rejoin the family healthy. The doctors and social workers have reunited eight patients with their families including three women.
K D Tripathi from Uttarakhand, Mathur Bhai Padhiyar from Gujrat and recently Vinod Sharma from Indore, all were reunited with their families.
“We observe the behaviour of the patients, the name of places they utter, using them as clues we try to search these places on the internet and also take the concerned Police on board,” said Farooq.
But the IMHANS officials regret the abuse of Kashmir’s lone Psychiatric Hospital as a dumping ground for individuals, the family are so keen to abandon. In certain cases, the attendants offer the wrong information at the time of admission. This has changed the system at IMHANS. Now the hospital admits serious cases which come through police on court orders.
Social workers, sometimes move an extra-length in making reluctant families take their members home. They even drive them home in ambulances.
Right now, doctors and the social workers are planning driving Zakir to his Tamil Nadu home. A B.Tech diploma holder, Zakir is admitted to the hospital for a year. Diagnosed with Bipolar Affective Disorder, he is seen wearing the Pheran with its left sleeve slit to the armpit.
“I had come to Kashmir in a lorry to find work but I don’t remember how I landed here,” Zakir said. “Barring occasional headaches, I am completely fine. I talked to Ammi on phone and she said she is ill and once she gets better, she’ll take me back. I miss them.”
Zakir, tragically, is unaware that his family has claimed they are financially incompetent to take him home. Considering this, the hospital administration is keen to raise donations and sent him home.
IMHANS has its own limitations. Run by the Department of Health and Medical Education, the 100-bedded hospital has a staff strength of four permanents consultants, eight registrars, five medical officers, and eleven post-graduate scholars. Along with basic commodities like food, clothing, drugs and essentials to the women, the indoor patients are facilitated with free medical tests.
Currently, the hospital houses around 65 males and 12 female patients segregated in five wards labelled as open and closed wards. The patients in open wards, unlike closed ones, are accompanied by attendants.
Ward 1 is a closed forensic ward for medico-legal cases. Ward 2, and 3 are closed wards for men. Ward 4, is an open ward for both men and women and Ward 5, is a closed woman ward.
In Ward 5, Dr Muzaffar Jan, a psychiatrist, explains the difference between two kinds of patients, psychotics and neurotics. “Neurotic patients have an insight of their condition which ranges from anxiety, depression, OCD(Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), phobia, or a personality disorder while the psychotic patients lose touch with reality, have severe mental disorders which can sometimes induce aggressiveness and are characterized by non-acceptance of their disease.”
Inmates at the hospital are both locals as well as non-locals. Of 12 women admitted, four are non-local. There are two non-local males as well.
There are few children admitted as well. In Ward 5, is 15-year old Rabia. A resident of West Bengal, she is there for the last three years after her “employer” handed her over to police saying she was mentally challenged.
“Though keeping juveniles in the hospital is illegal, in absence of a separate psychiatric health centre for children, there are no options,” one hospital official admitted. “We keep them here after informing the court.”
(Some names in the story have been changed to protect identities)