Thursday, November 19, 2009

In the news: Guidelines to tackle violence against mentally-ill persons

We know that the experience of violence has a tremendous, long-term impact on the mental health of an individual. We also know that the mentally ill are particularly vulnerable to violence. On 4 December, as part of the campaign, Prajnya is organising a symposium on Mental Health and Gender Violence, to discuss this causal relationship.

The guidelines issued by the state Social Welfare Department (see below), in the aftermath of a mass whipping of "possessed women" in Tiruchi district are therefore particularly relevant.

The original news story on the mass whipping in Tiruchi, published in Frontline magazine
(6 November 2009)

Guidelines to tackle violence against mentally-ill persons
Special Correspondent

“Health check-up should be arranged periodically”

“Possibility of starting counselling centres should be explored”

CHENNAI: The State Social Welfare Department has framed a set of guidelines to tackle the problem of violence against persons with psychiatric illness and District Collectors have been advised to organise awareness programmes for preventing atrocities on women patients.

Non-governmental organisations should be encouraged to establish homes for mentally-ill persons with vocational training programmes for their rehabilitation. The possibility of starting counselling centres should also be explored. Health check-up should be arranged periodically.

The guidelines have been issued following the publication of an article in the Frontline magazine of November 6, 2009, on the incident of mass whipping of women, who were believed to be possessed, in Vellalapatti village in Tiruchi district. The Principal Secretary of the department addressed a letter last week to the Tiruchi Collector. Letters on similar lines have also been sent to other Collectors, according to a senior official.

Fiat to Collectors

The Collectors should organise meetings at regular intervals with officials of Health, Social Welfare and Rural Development departments and mobilise specialists in psychiatry/psychology. They should facilitate provision of assistance to mentally-ill persons through social security schemes of the government. They should ensure that those mentally ill persons who are orphans should be admitted to rehabilitation centres on a priority basis.

The Collectors have been advised to take the support of NGOs, which have a commendable track record, and women’s self-help groups. They could take legal action against those who practised or perpetuated such inhuman practices against women.

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