The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill,2014, is under review. In the report on the Bill ,Union Minister Maneka Gandhi is reported to have made the following observations: There is no difference between mental illness and mental disability in the bill. For instance, how can a person with Schizophrenia be given a job? What a jaundiced view of a high profile Union Minister on mental illness? Schizophrenia is like any other disease and the patient can be rehabilitated well with quality therapy, counselling, family care and social support. Mental illness is a taboo even now, and the mentally ill are ostracised, humiliated,ill-treated, and denied their basic human rights.
A large number of mentally ill persons do not get treatment for a variety of reasons and many treatment centres like mental hospitals lack facilities for good quality treatment..Recently some new institutions like the Banyan in Chennai are adopting a holistic approach to treatment and rehabilitation of mental patients. But one problem staring at the medically rehabilitated person is the family and social rehabilitation as many families are reluctant to accept them back for fear of community resistance. Years ago, there was a poor,Dalit ,young student at the Madeas School of Social Work where I was a teacher. He had thirteen papers as arrears at the Final semester, Two of his classmates, Mr.Keith Gomez of Loyola College (Lecturer and Psychiatric Social Worker),and Ms.C.K,Gariyali,IAS (herself had MSW and whose husband was the famous Psychiatrist Dr.Raj Kumar) helped the young man overcome his illness. Surprising everyone he passed all the thirteen papers in one attempt. On completion of the social work course,he took a job as a Social Worker. Today Cancer survivors are treated as role models for others. But not the persons who have overcome mental illnes.. The mentally ill person has the right to study,to work,to marry, to vote and to enjoy life like any other person. Let not medieval prejudices of persons like Maneka Gandhi prevent them from expressing themselves fully. Let Indian society do not waste precious human resources.
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