This NGO rehabilitates mentally ill women back into society

I arrived at Paripurnata Half-Way Home by auto rickshaw, my first taste of the Indian monsoon season as there had been heavy rainfall the night before. I was greeted by the organisation’s Honorary Secretary, Mr. Prabir Basu, who then went on to share with me details of their operations as well as the daily routine of the women living here.

Paripurnata rehabilitates mentally ill women with the aim of integrating them into mainstream society. Rehabilitation takes place in a number of ways but is divided into four main categories. The first is pharmacotherapy and psychological treatment. This comprises of a regular medical check up by a visiting doctor; counselling sessions are also provided.

Other therapies are aimed at teaching these women life skills – skills that will prepare them for life after the halfway home. These include occupational therapy, to give the women domestic skills; and vocational training, like sewing, weaving and food processing to help them become financially independent. Non-formal education, which includes basic linguistic and communication skills to enhance their social interactions with others, is also imparted. Then there are social and cultural therapy, which have been designed to encourage imagination and release negative emotional feelings through music, art and dancing.

The average time spent at Paripurnata is nine months but I was a little saddened to learn that it is not uncommon for women to relapse and return to the safety of the house for an extended period. Totally curing people of mental illnesses is clearly a tough task! Most of them will have to continue taking medicines throughout their lives, like people suffering from diabetes, hypertension, arthritis etc.

It was a relief to learn that families of the girls are generally supportive of their struggle but there are numerous exceptions, where the families are very reluctant to take them back. Persuading these families is another onerous task for the staff of the organisation. After their time at the halfway home, they go back and live with their families. Further, that Paripurnata’s support extends beyond the womens’ time at the home; even when they leave, they are provided with free medicines for three years.

I spent my afternoon being shown around the home. It was exciting to see all the crafts and pictures that the women had created and to see that the organisation had highly encouraged their achievements by showcasing them in a glass cabinet. I was also grateful for the chat I had with five ex-residents, who happened to be there the same day I visited. One of them, Swapna Nath, now teaches block-printing at the home itself. She enjoys her work and was very appreciative of Paripurnata’s efforts. Not only had they treated her but have now given her the opportunity to help women who are now struggling. The energy and social skills of these women was a clear indicator of Paripurnata’s great work!

Till date, 218 women have been rehabilitated. With 14 full-time employees (consisting of Programme staff, House staff and Administrative staff) and 10 part-time activity instructors (including 4 volunteers), working around the clock in shifts, there are surely going to be more women who will see better days!

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