HYDERABAD: While many consider them an inactive part of society, Razia Pathan feels that, with patience and proper supervision, mentally challenged people can be taught to become an industrious part of the system.
Pathan, who has been running a rehabilitation centre at the Sir Cowasjee Jehangir Institute of Psychiatry for the past 19 years, believes that her patients have skills which can be developed despite their psychological limitations. This is why she decided to start an art and craft workshop at the institute — one of the largest mental asylums in Asia.
“I look for patients who are a bit more settled, who can understand and follow my instructions. Sometimes I face difficulties in teaching them because the tools I use in my work, such as scissors and needles, are quite dangerous. But I work with care. Which is why nothing serious has happened at the workshop as yet,” says Pathan.
While treatment is an essential part, she believes that the rehabilitation of the mentally challenged is an important part of the process than can make her patients lead better lives.
At her workshop, Pathan teaches her students how to weave baskets and make other household knick-knacks. “They may have lost their minds, but they have learned how to keep themselves happy,” she says.
Three of the patients at the workshop, Laiba, Naseema and Irene, love to sing. Irene, who is from Bangladesh, is one of the 27 women who live at the women’s ward of the institute.
These women attend daily classes of art work to develop their skills, which, according to officials at the institute, can be compared to any other person’s. This proves that these mentally challenged people, if motivated enough, are capable of working.
However, for most of these patients, the one desire that outweighs all others is a longing to meet someone from their families. While the institute is doing all it can to take care of the patients, the latter’s families do not play the role they are supposed to, said officials.
“Families also need to be trained in how to deal with mentally challenged patients. However, once they send these people here, years go by but they never come back to see them,” said Dr Razia Dal, a consultant psychiatrist at the institute.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 5th, 2010.