Will it end at all or should we do away with mental institutions?

By- Anjali Mental Health Rights Organization


“It was all about a bed. A new bed.The girl who sleeps next to me has been allotted a new one. Mine is an old one. I felt envious. Why would she get a new one and not me? I kept thinking. I could feel anger boiling within me. I went for my bath and sudden surge of anger overwhelmed me. I ran out of the bathroom and dashed towards the nursing station. I did not realise at the time that I was not wearing any clothes. The woman, sweeper or a security staff beat me up severely because I was naked. I hurled abuses at the nurses because I was enraged. That’s when the older nurse beat me with a wooden scale again and the younger one twisted my arms through the iron grilles of the nursing station
Doctor came and gave me injections. 

Next day, the nurses forced me to sign on a ‘letter’ which read that the nurses love me, care for me and the reason of black and blue bruises on my arm and wrist was because of the scuffle that I had got into.They did not beat me. It was my fault.
The woman sitting outside could have told me to wear my clothes. Why did she have to beat me up so badly? Why did the nurses beat me up? I have been living here for the last 15 years or so. I don’t like it here.” ~ a woman aged 30 with psychosocial disability living in a mental hospital in Calcutta.

In 2017, in post UNCRPD era, with Mental Health Care Act in place this kind of patient narrative from a mental hospital situated right in the middle of the city makes us wonder about the role of caregivers i e nursing staff. Not only are they untrained in psychiatry, deep seated prejudices about mental illness makes them inhumane and cruel. What about the nurses’ anger and aggression? Who will address that?

Time to think about dismantling oppressive structures and the long term goal of ending institutional stigma.
How is this brutality any different from what happened to Utera Bibi a poor woman with psycho-social disability who was lynched at a remote village in Murshidabad?