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  Volume 4 - Issue 09 SEPTEMBER 2006
 
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IMMEASURABLE SERVICE IN A MENTAL HOSPITAL, VISHAKAPATNAM

- How the Sai Youth befriend the miserable and the forsaken


In Oct 2005 issue of Heart2Heart, we had featured an article on the 'Shanthi School' of Kuwait where Sai volunteers are serving the needs of mentally-challenged children with great love and bringing about amazing transformation in these special children. [Go here to read that again]. That article inspired so much interest, even to the point of a man from Dubai expressing great desire to replicate the same work. And now we have another article dealing with such moving service, this time it is not for children born mentally challenged, but for adults who have become mentally ill because of circumstances in their life. Depression, anxiety and delusions are some of their typical symptoms. The Sai Youth of Vishakapatnam has been rendering yeoman service to these special adults in a mental hospital for years now and by the time you finish reading this story, we are sure, your heart would have turned as soft as butter.

Have you ever entered the doors of a mental hospital? Probably not and would not like to either. The very mention of a mental hospital conjures before us a pathetic and even scary scene of people who have ‘gone mad’ or have had a ‘nervous breakdown’. These two terms are about the sum of the average person’s knowledge of mental illness, yet there is a whole world of different ways such problems can show themselves - all as unique and distinct as the sufferer themselves.

And in many cases the cause of the mentally unwell person is not served well, either by overstretched mental health care services, or by the lack of care and understanding shown by relatives or the society around them.

It was into this situation that the Sai Youth of Visakhapatnam decided to make a positive difference and go where most people would be reluctant to tread. They are now celebrating the tenth anniversary of the time when 27 of them went to the Hospital for Mental Care in Visakhapatnam. After gaining permission of the hospital superintendent, they began to look after the patients with a lot of love.

 

They found that many of the patients had been rejected by their families and communities. The Sai youth realized that the inmates of the hospital had so many needs to be met and were in such a pitiable plight that the situation called for a multitude of service activities. Thus, you can imagine how overjoyed the patients felt when the young men and women came every Sunday to clothe them, feed them, clean their rooms and plates, sing bhajans to them and most importantly of all befriend them.

“My Heart Becomes Light And Peaceful when Sai Youth Talk To Me” - Mr. Aluri Nagendra Raju

One of the patients, Mr. Aluri Nagendra Raju, who is 25 years old, was recently interviewed for Heart2Heart:

 

Q: How did you meet the Sathya Sai youth?

Mr. Raju: We meet them every Sunday. They bathe us, give us good and tasty food and even wash our clothes. They sing Bhajans also along with us. I feel very happy to sing Bhajans. I feel that we should sing Bhajans every day at least for one hour. Because when Sathya Sai Youth conduct Bhajans and talk to us with love and affection I feel that my heart becomes light and peaceful, and I can sleep well.

Q: What do you feel about the Sai Youth?

Mr. Raju: When I join them in Bhajans or when I talk to them I feel that they are my loving and affectionate brothers. Then I feel very happy and ecstatic, and I believe I can completely recover from my ailment.

Cutting a patient's nails
   

Q: What do you plan to do when you go out from here?

Mr. Raju: I will complete my MBA. I will do Bhajans not only at home but I would like to organize Bhajan sessions whenever there is encouragement and opportunity for that. I will go to Puttaparthi to see Sai Baba who has given me all this happiness. I will also ask my parents to go with me.

You can sense Aluri Nagendra Raju’s joy that there are people who care for him and are prepared to give up their Sunday to be with him and share his pain - and his profound gratitude to Bhagavan who is the inspirer for all this work.

Back in the days when the youth first began the seva, the hospital had to run on meager funds. The food that was served was of low quality and the wards were not cleaned properly. The Sai youth concentrated first on the care of the patients: bathing them, combing their hair, and in the case of women patients the ladies Seva Dal would remove any lice, and dress them properly and so on.

 
Cleaning their body
 
Maintaining personal hygiene

Since that time the youth have been working very hard to make a difference in the lives of the patients. They distribute food in the form of pulihora, curdrice, payasam and vegatable pulav. Every Sunday 50 kgs of curd rice is served to all the patients and on the 19th of every month i.e. 'Saktiswaroopini day' Mahila Seva Dal members distribute sweets to all the patients.

Every week the Sai youth give all the patients a head-bath with a coconut oil massage; they cut the patients’ nails and apply soothing lotions for those who are suffering from skin allergies. The seva dals also clean plates and vessels and wash any dirty clothes. They teach the patients to sing Bhajans and as a result Nama Sankeertan has become very popular. The Sai youth have also worked alongside the patients in a garden project, planting saplings in the rainy season to beautify the hospital environment.

 
Serving delicious and nutritious food
 
Cleaning their vessels and plates

The Sai Youth visit the patients and treat them with love and care in a situation where visits to the hospital by the patients’ relatives are almost non-existent. This taboo is born out of fear and ignorance, but as we read from the following interview, this isolation only serves to make the patients’ condition worse. Such is the situation of Smt. Ramanamma who is 45 years old and who shared her feelings with Heart2Heart.

Q. Why did you join this hospital?

A. My husband is a drunkard. He does not look after me at all and I became mentally unwell. He has put me here.

Q. Does he come to visit you?

A. Not at all – not even my parents come here. They have all left me alone! (cries).

Q. Amma, have faith in God and pray. Don’t lose heart.

A. You are right. Your Sathya Sai devotees have become my kith and kin. They enquire about my health and well-being every week. That is how I am getting by. Kindly carry on with this help and ask my family to look after me.

Q. We will definitely help you. Our boys shall visit your home and convince them to come and see you.

 

A. Thank you, sir. Sai Baba is great. I will chant His name – He alone can help me.

This middle-aged lady is in a pitiable state; but imagine the plight of young people who find themselves ostracized by their own families. Some parents had even left their children in the hospital without giving their correct address. In these situations the Sai Youth helped the hospital authorities take back the young patients when they had recovered to their homes and restore them to their parents. It was shocking that in most of cases the parents were not happy to receive their children back home.

For these patients who are neglected by their families, the Sai Youth have become their only hope and the only time that friendly faces appear from outside the hospital. By sharing their love the Sai youth give the patients a sense of self-worth that helps them build bridges back to mental health.

“When The Sai Youth Leave, They Keep Asking When They Will Come Again” – Nurse Teresa

Apart from benefiting the patients immensely, another dimension in which the work of Sai Youth has yielded great dividends is the encouraging impact of their work on the hospital staff. This is evident from what nurse Theresa, a trained nurse of 6 years service, tells Heart2Heart.

Q. What do you know of the services being rendered by the Sathya Sai youth wing.

Nurse Theresa: I know it very well and ever since I joined I have noticed the service of the Sathya Sai youth wing with great interest. They come every Sunday and bring such things as soap, biscuits, food, vessels, plates, coconut oil, nailcutters and combs. They first bathe the patients, clean any eczema and other skin diseases and apply ointments. They cut the patients’ nails whenever necessary. They apply coconut oil to their hair and provide them with sumptuous food such as tamarind rice, pulav, and curd rice. They also sing bhajans with the patients joining in, distribute Baba’s photos and vibuthi. They also help us in cleaning the toilets and wards if it is necessary.

 
Rubbing oil into the hair of patients
 
Some patients cannot wash themselves

Q. What do you think of the seva offered by them and the affect on the patients?

Nurse Theresa: They feel very happy when the Sai youth come and sing with them. They relish the food served by them and enjoy the services. I can say from my heart that that the services rendered by the Sai Youth are of superior quality. The patients are very happy and active and join the Sai youth in bhajans. When the Sai youth leave they keep on asking whether they will come again tomorrow.

There are a lot of benefits - in some cases the patients get cured early. Some patients get cured and wait for their relatives to come and take them back to their houses. But in some cases, their relatives do not turn up and so the patients become sad waiting for them. In such cases the Sai youth get them discharged from the hospital and give them personal assistance to get back to their native place. They safely hand them to their relatives bearing all the expenditure - that is very much moving. One more thing: some service organizations distribute fruits in the hospital, but what the Sathya Sai devotees do is real service.

“The Love And Affection Shown By The Sai Youth Is Immeasurable” – Dr. G. Bhagya Rao

These plaudits from an experienced member of trained staff at the hospital stand alongside the ringing testimonials from the patients. The person who is very happy about the Youth’s initiative and extremely grateful to their dedicated work is the superintendent of the hospital, Dr. G. Bhagya Rao, who has served in this capacity for 7 years. We now bring you a small excerpt of what he shared with Heart2Heart recently:

Q. Doctor, what is your opinion about the service rendered here by the Sai youth for the last 10 years?

Dr Rao: It is very good. Once I happened to participate in their service activity and saw that the Sai Youth are rendering very good service here. The then health Minister, Smt. Aruna, once visited the hospital. She saw your youth serving the patients and felt very happy.

 
   
The Hospital for Mental Care, Vishakapatnam

Q. What is the response of the patients to the services of the Sai Youth?

Dr Rao: Each patient will be with us for about a month and their response depends upon the stage in which they are. The patients are happy and the impact is very good. The Sai Youth render service with very good feelings. They wash their clothes, give them baths, talk to them, conduct bhajans, give them good food and prasad. All this has a very good effect on the patients. More than the patients, there is a very good impact on our staff. I like this impact on our staff. I fully appreciate the services rendered by Sai Youth. The patients are extremely happy with the way they are treated.

 

Q. Doctor, as the head of the Institution, what is your advice to the Sai Youth?

Dr Rao :No doubt the Sai Youth are doing very good service. I feel that the Sai Youth should work in the direction of starting a rehabilitation center. This is a very big project. There are so many unwanted and unclaimed patients in the city. Such long term projects can be taken up by the Sai youth.

The mentally challenged people can be involved in projects like Phenyle making, candle making - a number of patients are wandering in society homeless. A project should be taken up for them. These patients can come here and participate in this work. It is a kind of self employment for them.

Interviewing the Hospital Superintendent, Dr Bhagya Rao
   

The Sai Youth are a source of inspiration to us. I sincerely wish that the Sai Youth should extend their services and think in terms of long term projects, particularly rehabilitation projects. I may tell you here that some families want to get rid of their patients. They give wrong addresses and they don't come (to visit). Some patients are stuck up here for months and years. The Sai youth have taken upon themselves the responsibility of taking home these patients who have recovered, by meeting their to and fro charges. The love and affection shown by the Sai youth is immeasurable.

 

 

This article celebrates 10 years of service to the mentally ill by the Sai youth. Swami tells us “Be Happy” and we are blessed with His love in so many ways so that our happiness is easy to grasp. Yet there are so many who are lacking in an inner sense of peace and who need the touch of Sai in their lives. We hope you, dear reader, can feel a sense of joy at this very necessary seva. Yet don’t let it stop there: please send us similar accounts of service in the area of mental health; or feel inspired to go out there and find those in need and make a difference.

– Heart2Heart Team

We are grateful to Mr. G K P Mukunda Rao and Sri M S Prakash Rao for their active support and help in the making of this article.


 
     
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Vol 4 Issue 09 - SEPTEMBER 2006
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