It is reported that India has 4000 psychiatrists to cover a population of 1.4 billion. According to award winning Mumbai based psychiatrist Dr Bharat Vatwani
"over 80% of the government hospitals in India do not have a psychiatrist"
In India women with mental illnesses are all to conveniently removed from the matrimonial home and abandoned. Families go to great lengths to ensure their "loved one" never returns, dumping them hundreds of miles away from all that is familiar. Such women are victims of abuse, neglect and disease, and have very little chance of being rescued, treated and rehabilitated.
Over the years WIN found abandoned women in extreme states of agitation and neglect. In the early days of the charity's operation there was little support from local medical practitioners and our attempts to admit vulnerable women into Nagpur's psychiatric hospital were met with refusal on the basis of there being no available bed space.
A lack of facilities and a reluctance to deal with such complex, fragile human beings meant we were often left to deliver our own brand of care. We built makeshift shelters on the streets, provided meals and companionship, and approached local police to ensure the women weren't subjected to abuse. Later we were directed by a senior psychiatrist and progressed to a shelter for abandoned women - not specifically mentally ill women, but a place of safety and sanctuary for those requiring temporary shelter.
Some of us from WIN have had the privilege of rescuing such women and witnessing their remarkable journeys towards recovery. The most rewarding aspect of our work is being able to trace loved ones from far across India and experiencing emotional reunions - often with grown up children, who were too young to understand or help their mothers when they were forced to leave home because of mental illness.
This years theme resonates greatly with our experiences - mental illness in an unequal world.