Our ISR® team at Kolkata invited Ashoka Fellow Sarbani Das Roy, who is also the Founder & Secretary of NGO Iswar Sankalpa, a not-for-profit organization which works for homeless mentally challenged people living on the streets of Kolkata, to speak to our employees on the occasion of World Mental Health Day 2018. The session was held at the 2nd Floor Cafeteria of Apeejay House and was attended by over 20 employees. Ms Roy started by speaking about the importance of mental health in our daily lives with specific examples about the rise in suicides among adolescents. She then went on to speak about mentally ill people who wander off their homes and can be seen wandering in the streets of the city. She brought with her one such person named Sushma who was found wandering on the streets of Kolkata and was rescued by her organization and rehabilitated at the NGO’s shelter. She then outlined the following steps that each of us can undertake to help such people –

  1. Place a bottle of water/ a packet of biscuit near them. Do not try and feed them as they maybe ‘paranoid’. However, they will at least have food or water because they need it.
  2. Do not assume that all people passed out on streets in dilapidated condition are drunk or drug addicts and thus don’t need attention. Speaking to the shopkeepers/ locals on how long this person has been there and what they feel is the problem as it will make it clear for you to take the best possible action.
  3. File a General Diary with the help of locals at the nearby police station. The police are duty bound to help. The police are the only guardians of homeless persons with mental illness. They have the knowhow of where and when to pick them up and place these vulnerable individuals as it is an ongoing issue within their sphere of operations. If the police need help, they will call the right NGO or any agency after doing the necessary procedures and medical examinations in a hospital and finding out what the homeless person needs next. Do not believe that they do not know, even if they will often tend to say so.
  4. In Kolkata, the mentally ill are placed at Iswar Sankalpa’s shelters as well as other shelters. You can follow up with them if you know from the police that they have been placed there. You can pitch in with your support and extend a helping hand.

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