IN SICKNESS AND HEALTH Members of Dilaasa meet every Sunday to share and empathise
In this column, we feature unusual groups. This week Ketan Tanna meets a support group for family members of schizophrenics and those suffering from substance abuserelated psychosis
Tears roll down the cheeks of the 55-year-old, frail-looking Yas minbi as she recounts how so ciety has been mistreating her 23-year-old schizophrenic son Junaid â€œLast week, a group of boys in our lo cality mercilessly beat him. My son has this habit of often going out of the house at night, sitting near the ground-floor staircase and staring at the stars in the sky. The boys in the locality bashed him up. When I asked them why, they said that they disliked him and the way he stared vacantly.â€™â€™
Thirty persons in a hall located in the Masina Hospital premises look on as Yas minbi reveals how her son, who was working in the Middle East, began be having strangely a few months after he left Mumbai. Thereâ€™s much empathy in the roomâ€”after all, everyone here is a relative of a person whoâ€™s either suffer ing from schizophrenia or recovering from substance abuse-related psychosis The support group, which is called Di laasa (Sympathy), was set up in 2004 to lend a shoulder to the care-givers of such patients. Psychiatrists and team mem bers offer solace and advice to families and friends of patients.
Schizophrenic disorders are charac terised in general by a distortion in thinking and perception. Patients suffer from delusions, and sometimes feel that natural or supernatural forces are at work to influence their thoughts. The schizophrenic often sees himself as the centre of all that happens, and halluci nations, especially auditory ones, are common. More often than not, situations take on a special, usually sinister, mean ing for schizophrenicsâ€”Yasminbiâ€™s son would kick away his food plate many times, saying that it had been poisoned
Dilaasa is coordinated by a group of people and a trained counsellor. On this Sunday, 73-year-old Russi Bilimoriaâ€”who, incidentally, founded the Smokin Joeâ€™s pizza brandâ€”takes charge of the meeting as a coordinator. His elder son Rohinton, who is now 48 years old, was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and lat er took to drugs. It has been a while since Rohinton recovered, though there have been occasional relapses.
â€œAlthough my son recovered and has been doing okay, I realised the pain and problems a family goes through when one of its members is discovered to be schizophrenic or suffering from sub stance-induced psychosis. This is when a few of us decided to launch Dilaasa,â€™ says Bilimoria. Dilaasa was formed at the behest of psychiatrist Dr Y A Machiswala, and on an average nearly 30 to 40 persons attend the weekly Sun day meetings at 11 am.
One such person is 27-year-old Kamya Krishnan, whose husband Ramesh Kr ishnan works with a leading Indian com pany and was deputed to Spain a couple of months ago. Last fortnight, he start ed acting strangely and called up his wife from Spain, saying that he was very up set with the office politics and that peo ple in his company were conspiring against him. â€œYesterday, at the airport he was absolutely agitated and said that he wanted to tender his resignation there and then and drive directly to the office of the director. He said he did not want to stay on a minute longer with the com pany. I really donâ€™t know what to do. We admitted him to hospital yesterday, but I am very disturbed. I feel agitated and oscillate between so many thoughts Should I start working now that my hus band is ill? Will he be all right?â€™â€™ Kamya breaks down.
Nitesh, a bespectacled, serious-look ing, middle-aged man, who has recov ered from alcoholism, and is now a vol unteer, comforts her. â€œThere is a 99 per cent chance that he will be all right,â€™â€™ he says. â€œGive it some time and donâ€™t be hard on yourself. Donâ€™t blame yourself or anyone. Let the doctors do their work.â€™
Every member of the group can feel the pain of the others. Schizophrenia does not discriminateâ€”class and edu cation, the great barriers of society, are non-existent as far as the disorder is con cerned. The motley group in Dilaasa cuts across class, age and man-made barri ers. Millionaires and highly educated families share their grief with poor and unlettered ones in a sweep of empathy.
Nadira, a 35-year-old beautiful woman of Persian origin, who comes from a very well-off family, is slightly reluctant to talk about the problems of her schizo phrenic brother. â€œI personally have no hesitation in talking about my brother In fact, he has recovered now but my mother still has problems accepting that her son has a mental problem,â€™â€™ she says with a smile. Nadira, however, did not let this inhibit her and has been at the fore front of Dilaasa ever since it was launched. When Yasminbi breaks down Nadira is the one who puts her arms around her and comforts her in Hindi.
More often than not, the families of schizophrenics are shell-shocked by the fact that one of their own has fallen prey to an illness about which they have no clue. â€œThere is the initial trauma and then the blame game begins in the fam ily. Families that have such members should realise that blaming one anoth er is of no use. Instead, recognise that it is a chemical problem and that it needs to be tackled with medicines and thera py,â€™â€™ says Bilimoria.
Shabbir, a 58-year-old businessman from Mazgaon, nods vehemently. The fa ther of a recovered drug-induced psy chosis patient, Shabbir urges some in the group not to give up hope. â€œMy son has recovered. Bilimoriaâ€™s son is okay So please have faith in God and the doc tors,â€™â€™ he says, trying to calm 55-year-old R K Singh whose 33-year-old son, an al coholic suffering from psychosis, con tinues to give grief to the family. â€œHe ma nipulates the family, lies through his teeth and gets violent if we ask him ques tions,â€™â€™ says Singh.
Two hours and many tales of grief later, Bilimoria decides to wind up the meeting. Next Sunday, the group will meet again and traverse on the road that offers hope to suffering families. TNN