In Kozhikode Mental Hospital, Patients Living in British-Era ‘Cells’ Get Help From Facebook Donors

In Kozhikode Mental Hospital, Patients Living in British-Era 'Cells' Get Help From Facebook Donors

A row of cells at the Kozhikode Mental Health Centre.

KOZHIKODE:  At Kozhikode Mental Health Centre in Kerala, patients are locked up for days in cellular rooms like jails where even sunlight can’t enter. The air is thick with a foul stench, and the rooms are dark and oppressively humid, as if time stopped a century ago. For over 600 people, this is home.

The hospital in Kozhikode, built during the British era, has recently found new hope in several donors who have responded to an SOS on Facebook from District Collector N Prashanth. The IAS officer refused donations in cash, but posted a list of requirements compiled by the hospital superintendent – mugs, plates, wheel chairs and water beds.

“I had two options. One was to write to the government, wait for budgetary allocation, procurement process. The second option was to circumvent this. I had to do it because every minute mattered. Human beings were living there and these interventions would change their lives,” Mr Prashant told NDTV.

Weeks after he posted the online appeal, the state government sanctioned Rs. 30 crore. The last central government fund they received was four years back, and was used to renovate one of nine wards.

The hospital has 475 beds but many more patients. Among them is a 35-year old who does not want to go back to her family; she believes they abandoned him. A woman who dreams of seeing her daughter married, says, “We feel very safe here. Much safer here than out there in society.”

But the place where they feel the safest can be traumatic for outsiders, who see an old building where rooms are dark, and patients locked up in suffocating heat for days, often due to the lack of enough staff.

“We need a new building, we need to allow patients freedom. We can’t keep them locked inside,” says Mohammed Abdul Raheeman, the store superintendent.

The patients don’t have their family standing by them to fight for their basic right to dignity. But they are pinning their hopes on government funds, and have a world of faceless well-wishers, who are willing to sponsor the hospital’s makeover.