January 27, 2019
Until recently, mental health facilities in Sivakasi, the well known industrial city famous for its fireworks, match sticks, and printing press, was non existent. Hence even for basic mental health care, f people with mental disabilities had to travel to Madurai, about 70 kms away. Many of them were often wandering in the streets, dressed in scanty clothes, dirty and foraging for food from the street side garbage.
In order to address this felt mental health care need, Sri Sathya Sai Samithi volunteers of Sivakasi in collaboration with MSCT&RF launched a joint initiative to serve people with mental disabilities in Sivakasi who were unable to access mental health care services because of stigma associated with mental illness, low levels of ignorance, non availability of mental health services and the long commute involved in accessing such services.
The initiative was launched in May 2002, when the first free mental health camp was inaugurated. Since then 200 camps have been consecutively organized at the Ganesan Arasan Kalyana Mandapam in Sivakasi on the third Sunday of every month. Initially there were around 45 beneficiaries from in and around Sivakasi. Currently, 255 patients avail the campo services every month. And in the last 18 years, more than a lakh of patients have accessed the services.
Sri Sathya Sai Samithi volunteers, the backbone of the camp, work tirelessly to ensure smooth flow of camp activities including patient registration, assessment by social workers, psychiatric consultation, and availing medicines and food—both of which are supplied free of charge. In addition, they make regular home visits to ensure that patients are regular with medication and help care givers provide compassionate informed care.
MSCT&RF with its committed team of psychiatrists, medical officers, social workers, psychologists, physiotherapists, staff nurses and pharmacists deliver professional services to those attending the camp. Philanthropists and well-wishers from match industries and corporates from Virudhunagar District have shown admirable commitment in providing psychiatric medicines. Sai volunteers take care of camp logistics which includes free food, distribution of medicines and maintenance of camp medical records.
The people of Sivakasi have responded wholeheartedly to this initiative. The Arasan A.M.S Ganesan Kalyana Mandapam is offered free of charge for conducting the camp and food for persons with mental disabilities and their care takers is also provided free of charge.
To commemorate the 200th free mental health camp, Sri Sathya Sai Seva Samithi, Sivakasi and MSCT&RF jointly organized this camp on January 27, 2019 at Sivakasi. The inauguration began with the lighting of the lamp by Smt. Meera Vairaprakasam, Ayyan Fireworks Pvt. Ltd, Sivakasi; along with a galaxy of distinguished invitees. the dignitaries.
Thiru T.A. Machavel, District President, Sri Sathya Sai Seva Samithi, Virudhunagar, welcomed the gathering. Thiru G. Varadhan, Sri Sathya Sai Books & Publication Trust, Chennai, in his inaugural address, lauded this joint initiative to address mental health issues in Virudhunagar district.
Dr. E.S.M. Saravanan, Psychiatrist, Vivekananda Health Centre, Erode, Smt. S. Sundaravalli Suresh, Sri Sathya Sai High School, Puttaparthi and Shri A. Vairaprakasam, Ayyan Fireworks, Pvt. Ltd, Sivakasi, felicitated.
Thiru Dinakaran, DRO, Sivakasi, in his Chief Guest address, said that through the District Administration, all support related to welfare and rehabilitation of the persons with mental disabilities attending this camp will be undertaken immediately.
Dr. C. Ramasubramanian, Founder, MSCT&RF, delivered the special address. He appealed to stake holders, especially civic society and family members of people with disability, to initiate and strengthen vocational training and rehabilitation. Further, he also appealed to well wishers and donors to offer placement services for recovered persons with mental disabilities in Madurai District.
Student volunteers from Sri Sathya Sai Samiti, were awarded with certificates under the Mahila scheme. Well Wishers and donors were honored for their outstanding support towards sponsoring medicines for this camp. Eight new beneficiaries were identified and 253 beneficiaries were reviewed by the psychiatrists.
Thiru P. Selvakumar, Convener, Sri Sathya Sai Seva Samiti, Sivakasi, proposed the vote of thanks.
The camp was a powerful reminded that “service to humanity is indeed service to God.”