Friday, June 14, 2024
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Poignant moments at SAN-KER

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By Our Special Correspondent

SHILLONG: On the occasion of Children’s Day, SAN-KER an institution known for providing mental health care not only for patients from Meghalaya but of the entire region, launched the Specialised Child and Adolescents Psychiatry Services. Rev Reuben Laloo of the Reach Shillong Ministry was in attendance with the abandoned children his Ministry has taken under its wings.

Briefing the audience Dr Sandi Syiem, Director, SAN-KER said, “Mental illness is something we don’t want to talk about. People ask in disbelief if children and adolescents can be afflicted with mental illness. But the extent of the problem can be gauged from the fact that there are 16 psychiatrists in Shillong and all of them are overworked.”

Dr Syiem rued that all attempts to get government funding for SAN-KER has fallen on deaf ears. “Two past chief ministers, namely DD Lapang and Donkupar Roy have visited the Institute and seen for themselves the kind of service that SAN-KER renders but when it comes to funding they have not lifted a finger in support of our Institute although we urgently need to upgrade the facilities and services to meet the rising demand,” Dr Syiem stated.

Informing that 10% children have some form of mental illness ranging from Autism to depression and that only about 12-29 % are actually diagnosed with the problems Dr Syiem said such children if untreated can drop out of school and create societal unrest. Stating that there are only 30 Child Guidance Clinics in the country and not a single one of them is in the North East, Dr Syiem said it’s a pity that Governments do not pay attention to these critical issues.

After the children of Reach Shillong Ministry, some as young as three years had sung a song, “Lawei Baphyrnai (Bright Future), Meghalaya Assembly Speaker, Charles Pyngrope who was also the chief guest at the function choked on his words when he got up to speak. It took him some time to regain his composure. Pyngrope had come with a prepared speech but set it aside because he said he was not prepared for what he saw at SAN-KER having visited it for the first time ever on Wednesday.

“This is the first time I have fully understood the difference between mental retardation and mental illness. People who are actually mad are us politicians who have not understood what a great service is rendered by SAN-KER. I promise to follow up on the proposals that this Institute has put up before the Government and North Eastern Council,” an emotionally charged Pyngrope said adding that Dr Sandi Syiem has given a beacon of hope to those who have lost hope. Earlier, Rev Laloo of Reach Shillong Ministry shared that most of the street kids he has taken under his wings are abandoned by their families, mostly single mothers who have gone astray. “These kids will sacrifice everything for a tube of Dendrite. At least five of these kids need special counselling at the new centre started by SAN-KER. Dr Arvind Nongpiur, Consultant Psychiatrist, SAN-KER made a presentation on the wide range of mental illnesses afflicting children and adolescents.

The most poignant moment for the audience was a testimony from a 15- year old boy who was admitted to SAN-KER an alcoholic. He confessed to having remained sober for 251 days and is now in Class X. The young lad narrated how he had stolen money from his mother, extorted and blackmailed up to Rs 3 lakhs for his fix. “One day, I was about to kill my mother. I held her by the neck and had a knife in my hand. That was the day I was brought to SAN-KER,” he said. Ms BB Nalle Additional Director, State Social Welfare Department committed to helping SAN-KER build up the children and adolescents unit at SAN-KER.

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