In the 1969 film Khamoshi, a nurse taking care of a patient suffering from a mental illness goes berserk after she can’t roleplay any more. In an eerie similarity, five caregivers of Pune’s government-run Regional Mental Hospital at Yerawada were diagnosed with schizophrenia and psychosis. Today, they are being treated at the very place where, for several years, they carried out tasks like changing bedsheets, clothing, feeding and cleaning after patients.
“We found our staffers suffering from schizophrenic and alcoholic psychosis. These are old staff who had been working in different wards in the hospital and have been kept under the care of hospital’s psychiatrists,” the hospital’s medical superintendent Dr Vilas Bhailume said. Asked what was being done to ensure that the mental health of other staff won’t deteriorate, Bhailume said that the hospital will conduct mental health checks and programmes at regular intervals. “Monthly mental check-ups of the caretakers are being done. The hospital has been conducting cultural events so the staff gets relief from the monotonous work. Also, we keep changing the duty hours of the staff.”
Psychiatrists in Mumbai and Pune say that people nursing mental patients can get affected if care is not taken.
Dr YA Matcheswalla, psychiatrist at JJ and Masina hospitals, said, “Caregivers who deal with seriously ill patients for a long time can get affected if they aren’t taking care of themselves. It is very important to have proper sleep, to eat well, socialise and have a balanced family life.”
He said stress-busting sessions and training programmes at regular intervals helped.
Pune-based psychiatrist Dr Nitin Dalaya, who runs Nityanand Rehabilitation Centre and Residential Mental Healthcare, said those who work with patients have to show empathy, which can be stressful. “This demand on them, and working in such stressful workplaces continually, can make doctors and staff depressed or anxious. Many get burned out within 3 to 4 years and shift to easier and less stressful chores or quit the job. Among professionals, 10 to 15% would have at least one episode of minor to major mental disorder in their lifetime,” said Dalaya.
What is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that affects the way a person acts, thinks and sees the world.
People with schizophrenia have an altered perception of reality, often a significant loss of contact with it.
They may see or hear things that do not exist, speak in strange or confusing ways, believe that others are trying to harm them, or feel like they they are being constantly watched.
According to the latest statistics of Yerawada mental hospital, 1,830 patients are receiving treatment, some of them residents for over 20 years. The hospital has a capacity of 2,500 patients.