50 wandering mentally ill rescued in Pudukottai during pandemic


Fifty wandering mentally ill persons have been rescued in Pudukottai district in the last one year of the COVID -19 period with some of them having been reunited with their family thanks to the coordinated efforts of officials of different government departments.

The Emergency Care and Recovery Centre (ECRC), established by the Department of Health and Family Welfare in Pudukottai Town last year, is serving as the home for the rescued wandering mentally ill persons who were yet to be reunited with their near ones.

Twenty six among the wandering mentally ill persons rescued since May 2020 were male and the remaining were women who were all accommodated at the ECRC after following the due procedures, said R. Karthik Deivanayagam, the District Psychiatrist and the nodal officer of the District Mental Health Programme, Pudukottai.

The ECRC functions within the Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy Memorial Government Hospital in Pudukottai Town.

Thanks to the inter-department coordination, 15 rescued persons were reunited with their respective family members after ascertaining their whereabouts and checking the credentials, says Dr. Karthik, adding that the remaining 35 rescued persons were being provided comprehensive care adopting bio-psycho social approach at the 50-bedded ECRC, besides being provided with rehabilitation services.

In a couple of instances, the officials managed to find out the whereabouts of two rescued wandering mentally ill persons to Virudhunagar and Madurai and reunited them with their family, said Dr. Karthik.

The district administration had in August last year formed Taluk Level Teams comprising officials of revenue, police, and local body besides a government doctor and mandated it with the task of facilitating the safe rescue of wandering mentally ill persons from public places and get them accommodated at the ECRC during the COVID-19 pandemic and as part of an effort to curb the spread of the viral infection.

Information about every rescued person is at first conveyed to the police as a legal procedure and they were provided with eatables before being shifted to the nearest government health care facility for basic medical screening. Thereafter, they were shifted to the ECRC through ‘102’ ambulance where another screening was done to look for medical emergencies. Samples were taken from every rescued person for COVID -19 test and till the results emerged they were kept in isolation at the ECRC, says Dr. Karthik.

The ECRC has a multi-disciplinary team consisting of a psychiatrist, mental health staff nurse, psychiatric social worker, psychologist, multi-purpose worker to provide medical care, psychosocial therapies and related rehabilitation services for them. The social workers would communicate with the rescued persons to slowly build their confidence in them to enable them express their feelings and requirements, he says. This helped in reuniting 15 rescued persons with their families in the last one year, he said. “One of the major aims of the ECRC was to support the mentally ill persons to move through the crisis towards recovery and reunite them with their families and society,” said Dr. Karthik.

The innate interests of the rescued persons were also analysed during sustained medical care and psychological assessment. Some of the rescued persons showed interest in gardening and some others in drawing kolam, craft making and even bouquet making, he said.

Even as these services were being rendered, efforts were continuously on to find out the whereabouts of their family members so as to reunite with them. Follow up action was being taken by periodically calling up the family members to know about the reunited persons, he said.

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