Those shunned by society find homes at this caravan for life

Published: May 28, 2013
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Patients at Karwan-e-Hayat, mental health facility, learn to become productive members of society through vocational training. PHOTO: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

Patients at Karwan-e-Hayat, mental health facility, learn to become productive members of society through vocational training. PHOTO: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

KARACHI: 

Farzana, 56, was living alone after her husband’s death as her four step sons have moved abroad. Her depression worsened and soon she was diagnosed schizophrenic. For someone who has no home in the city, Farzana calls Karwan-e-Hayat “just like home”. She has been receiving treatment at this institute for the past three years.

Karwan-e-Hayat is home to 13,000 people with mental illness, behavioural issues and hopes. At its inception in 1983, it was a clinic on Khayaban-e-Jami in Defence Housing Authority. Today, it has expanded into a complete hospital in Keamari and a community centre in Korangi.

With nearly two million mentally challenged persons in the city, this hospital caters to a handful of them. It is not only a hospital, but a rehabilitation centre, an institute and a social welfare organisation.

Karwan-e-Hayat has been improving lives since 1983. PHOTO: SANA MASOOD/EXPRESS

The hospital organised a ‘tea and tour’ event on Monday when its chief operating officer, Saleem Ahmed, welcomed the media team. The lush green garden in the centre of the institute gave a sense of relief from the summer heat. Some of the patients clutched the black grilles as he peered onto the new arrivals from the first floor.

Treatment and beyond

The hospital also runs a day care centre for male and female patients. On the tour with rehabilitation officer Alizeh Valjee, the female ward appeared far less populated than the male one. “The women who recover and are sent back to their homes often don’t come back for rehabilitation activities,” explained the daycare in-charge, Syeda Anna. The training at the day care equips women to make handicrafts, learn beauticians’ skills and cooking which helps them become independent.

Another patient, Roy Montro, who is now 55, believed that someone tried to capture him through black magic when he was on his way back from India several years ago. In just two years of treatment, Montro now seeks a job as an accounts manager. “The people here are so nice, they are like friends,” he said, excited at being interviewed.

Helping them fight

The hospital has allowed its patients to become productive members of society by learning how to cope with their illness. Hazel-eyed Shumaila Wasih learned about her disease after undergoing an illness management recovery programme, but she is now in control.

“After my father’s death, I was diagnosed as schizophrenic,” she said, as she gestured the cameramen to stop filming her. She thought if her face came on the television screens, she would have trouble finding a job.

Getting acquainted with disease is an effective way to cope, it has not worked for all. Valjee told The Express Tribune that there were cases where patients refused repeatedly that they have a mental condition.

Patients at Karwan-e-Hayat, mental health facility, learn to become productive members of society through vocational training. PHOTO: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

The hospital has prepared isolation wards for patients who have a tendency of becoming aggressive. However, the patients are only sent there after a doctor permits. Apart from these, there are general wards, semi-private, private and VIP rooms for patients of different socio-economic backgrounds.

The hospital subsidises 80 per cent of its patients who come for treatment. For those who can afford, the cost is relatively low and for those who cannot, the hospital treats them free of charge.

The hospital’s clinical director, Dr Salman Kazim, recalled some unusual cases that he has come across. “I have seen numerous cases of grandiose symptoms,” he said, explaining that under these cases, a patient acts like a royalty or perceives that he is receiving revelations. Some of the families never responded after admitting a patient at this facility, he said. This is where we need social work to create awareness that having mental illnesses is normal, he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 28th, 2013

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Reader Comments (2)

  • RizwanKhan
    May 28, 2013 - 10:13AM

    A human brain is the most valuable thing in this universe. We should not let these brains go waste. These people are very important resource for the nation. We should value them highly and involve them in our regular lives. This would be beneficial Islamically as well as in worldy matters.

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  • Luciferous
    May 28, 2013 - 6:20PM

    “Farzana, 56, was living alone after her husband’s death as her four step sons have moved abroad. Her depression worsened and soon she was diagnosed schizophrenic.”

    You don’t suddenly develop “schizophrenic” at age 56.
    I understand that they are doing a superb job; where State is missing in action.
    They deserve our financial support since psychiatry is step child of health care in Pakistan and most of the population served is indigent!

    Recommend

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