World Schizophrenia Day on May 24: ‘Dealing with schizophrenia can be tough; have learnt to accept this reality’

Rina (name changed) was among 13 women selected from across the country to join the first batch of pilot training in the early 1990s. She passed the Intensive Aptitude Battery Test (PABT) and took psychometric tests apart from the medical examination to qualify for training at the Air Force Academy in Dindigul, Andhra Pradesh. She even made her first solo debut but later developed an illness that could only be diagnosed as schizophrenia in 2001.

“It’s been a long journey since then and I’ve learned to accept it,” Rina, now 52, ​​told The Indian Express as she spoke softly about her new role as an account executive at a facility in the city.

The superstar, who graduated in Physics and Chemistry as her core subjects from a reputable university in Kerala, also passed the examination conducted by the Institute of Cost and Business Accountancy in India while pursuing her passion for aviation. But that chapter soon ended as she experienced bouts of nausea and “strange sense of smell” while in the air. “It was not frequent but I vomited during a solo flight, after which my father refused to let me continue and I had to quit,” she said.

These episodes and related symptoms such as irritability are often thought of as part of severe premenstrual syndrome. While she worked for a handful of companies in Kerala, the debilitating disease that afflicts 21 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), in Reina’s case can only be determined years later.

“I was hospitalized and then when I recovered, my family went to Mumbai. Failed marriage and accident later, I realized I was afraid of interacting with people. I lost my confidence and a month before the outbreak of the epidemic, my family accepted me into Chaitanya Institute of Mental Health in Pune.”

May 24 is World Schizophrenia Day and the purpose of this day is to spread awareness about the disease and to eliminate myths and myths about mental illness in general.

According to a study by The Lancet, one in seven Indians developed mental disorders of varying severity in 2017. The relative contribution of mental disorders to the overall burden of disease in India has nearly doubled since 1990.

Schizophrenia is a serious mental health disorder that affects an individual’s ability to think, feel and act clearly, said Ronnie George, founder of the Chaitanya Institute, which has seven centers across the country. While four centers operate in Pune, the others are located in Goa, Kerala and Panvel. As the institute celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2024, George said they have helped rehabilitate more than 10,000 people with mental illness. “In such cases, family members also have to be persuaded and guided so that they can get used to welcoming them (patients) into the home. This is a challenge and there are still a lot of people in our center who cannot go back to their families,” said George, citing Nita’s case ( Name changed) who has been working at the center for 22 years. Her mother died during the Covid pandemic and she has no siblings. Therefore, we had to accommodate Nita’s 93-year-old father in our center where she has recovered but has not yet found a suitable job.”

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Dr. Vidyadhar Watve, former president of the Indian Psychiatric Association, said schizophrenia is a chronic, relapsing and normal disease. However, comprehensive treatment can help combat the disorder with pharmacological, psychological and social interventions along with family support. “Unfortunately, there is still stigma and discrimination associated with such disorders and many do not receive specialized mental health care,” added Dr. According to the World Health Organization, there are a range of effective care options for people with schizophrenia and at least one in three people with schizophrenia will be able to make a full recovery in their lifetime.

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