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Destitute Mentally Ill

According to a WHO estimate published in 2001, about 22% of Indians develop one or more mental or behavioral disorders in their lifetime. 5% of these people develop severe mental disorders that totally disrupt their lives and need intensive treatment. Several socio-economic factors in India, such as the low per capita income, scarcity of mental health professionals (only 1 psychiatrist for two lakh fifty thousand people), shortage of funds for mental health care in the public healthcare system (around 1% of total funds) and the stigma associated with mental illness, result in 1 % of the mentally ill people becoming homeless and thereafter living and dying on the streets.The southernmost tip of India and is a destination for a  vast number of tourists and pilgrims.

Mentally ill persons from other parts of India arrive here by accident or are intentionally brought here and abandoned by families not able to care for them. This accounts for the higher number of mentally ill people found on the streets of district.  They as well as the destitute mentally ill persons native to the district subsist on the streets on the food they find in rubbish bins or occasionally given to them by tourists or pilgrims.

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Manolaya was formed in 1998 with the vision of “A sustainable socio-economic environment in which justice, equity and mutual support enable all people to realize their full potential regardless of sex, caste, religion or race, and in which rural areas would be empowered to engage in a process of holistic national development.” Accordingly, the organization undertook a vast array of programmes which focused on women empowerment, environmental promotion, HIV/AIDS prevention and care, relief and rehabilitation and livelihood promotion.

But, as an organization which was interactive with the general public and open to the observations and opinions of the staff, the needs of the destitute mentally ill people was constantly being brought to the notice of the organization and Manolaya responded – tentatively at first, and later without reserve in terms of manpower and finances.

  • Our Milestone in Kanyakumari

Between the years 2006 and 2010, the organization received 42 reports of homeless mentally ill persons in severe distress on the streets of the district. They were admitted    to the Government Medical College Hospital, Nagercoil, Kanyakumari District. There they were treated for medical problems such as infections, dehydration, and diarrhea, but none of them received treatment for their psychiatric disorder. They were all discharged within a few days, except for two people who died at the hospital.

  • Our Milestone in Rameswaram

The plight of the wandering and destitute mentally ill persons at Rameswaram was repeatedly reported by the media and , but not much had been done by anyone to  address the issue. In mid 2017, MANOLAYA had decided to involve itself in providing curative and rehabilitative care at Rameswaram. Several visits were made to the temple town and 97destitute mentally ill people were identified.  66 of them were men and 31 were women.