Sita is a witty 33-year-old female who is not afraid to speak her mind. Sita has been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. She works as a part-time cleaner at a local school earning approximately 16 dollars/month. Her medication costs are approximately 15 dollars/month, sometimes more. Sita lives with her senile and disabled mother, sister-in-law, niece, nephew and disabled brother. Realizing that Sita was ill, the family was under the impression that marriage would cure her illness. While living away from the family home for one year her condition was somewhat stable. However, she contracted typhoid and after receiving medication for such her condition worsened and she began to roam naked in the streets.
Sita’s mental condition deteriorated on the basis of worry related to her brother’s disabled condition. Her brother became paralyzed as the result of falling from a tree at his place of employment, rendering him immobile and incapable of independently caring for himself. Sita’s partner and his family were neither supportive or compassionate when her mental state declined, rather, they were ashamed. Resultantly the marriage was broken off and Sita moved back into her family home. At this time Sita became violent and her family, unaware of how to deal with her, tied her to a chain-link fence outside of the home.
Sita’s ill-treatment points to the importance of including local experiences of mental health in the global conversation on mental health. In addition to being tied to a fence outside of the family home Sita’s family sought the help of traditional healers who applied hot spoons to her face and palms to ‘cure’ her. Eventually, the family, unaware of how to support Sita, and under the impression she was incapable of any level of recovery, contacted Chhahari with the request of ‘taking her away’. Sita’s ill-treatment and the request of her family for her disappearance were largely the result of her family’s lack of knowledge of exactly how to deal with the situation. The role for community health workers as disseminators of knowledge and networks of support in this instance is clear. With the support and knowledge passed on by Chhahari the family was able to make an informed, and humane, decision regarding the care of Sita. Sita is currently living with her family and she proudly provides support for her disabled brother on a daily basis.
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