It would probably be easier for people to admit that they have TB, than it is to say that they are suffering from a mental illness. And such illnesses are unlike an infection that go away with the administration of appropriate drugs. Problems with the mind are more insidious and often it is hard to get out of the vortex they put one into.
To help people with psychological problems Anil Vartak with the help of Dr Ulhas Luktuke (consulting psychiatrist) set up a self help group called Eklavya. According to him the name in itself is significant. Says he “Like Eklavya (of Mahabharat) people with mental disorders have to learn on their own how to help themselves. No one can really help you out unless you make the effort”. Therein lies the essence of this self help group.
Vartak, himself was a patient of a mental disorder some 25 years back. He pulled himself out of it and is now a professor of Economics. Here he talks about Eklavya and what it does for people with mental disorders.
Who are the people who benefit from this self help group?
“Initially I had joined Sihaya which was a similar group that aimed at helping people with schizophrenia only. They were a closed group and did not want to reach out to more people. Being a patient myself I felt that it would be better if we could reach out to as many people with mental problems as possible. This is because such people need help and do not have enough avenues open to them.”
The reason is that there is so much stigma attached to mental illness that people are scared to come out and say that yes, they are suffering form a mental problem. People who call me up worry about what the man on the footpaths will think if they know that we help mentally disturbed persons, such is the stigma.
But if one is committed to helping himself then yes we are there to help them. Today people with neuroses like phobias, anxieties, depression, and those with the more serious psychotic problems like schizophrenia, bi–polar disorder, personality disorder etc. all come here to help each other out.
How does a self–help group help such people?
Self help groups help in several ways. First of all a person gains valuable information about his problem. This is different from what you might get from a doctor because it comes from people with a first hand experience. Secondly, talking to such people you realize that you are not the only one with such a problem. This helps a great deal to the sufferer because by just knowing that you are not alone with a schizophrenia or a panic disorder reduces the helplessness you feel.
Then such groups help people give vent to their pent up emotions. Here you know that you can talk and you will be listened to. And lastly self help groups help people gain a deep insight into their problems.
How does Eklavya function?
We meet regularly every Saturday at Kamalini Kruti Bhavan, Dhayari road from 4 pm to 6 pm. In our group no one is referred to as a patient. We call ourselves shubhartis, which means a person who is in the pursuit of good. Shubhartis and also their families come over and each one addresses the group by telling them of the events, feelings, progress, etc that occurred in the past week. Besides discussing ourselves we also organize talks by experts once a month for the families of such persons. At these talks they can get their doubts cleared by practicing psychiatrists.
It is also important to help the families as they too suffer a lot along with the shubharti. Not only do we provide a platform to discuss and share feelings, but we also make friendships that go a long way. Often I get calls from our shubhartis who are in distress.
“The reason our shubhartis call us is because of the trust and faith we have in each other”.
Address of SAA Office:
Schizophrenai Awareness Association
Kamalini Kruti Bhavan,
14 Ganesh Nagar, Hissa No. 19/1–2
Dhayari Road, Near Jairaj Garden
Dhayari, Pune 411 041, India.
Ph no: +91 20 64700929/24391202