True Stories:
This Book:
Story 13


The story of
Suvarna


success story :
the outcome of Community Service Program| SEHER

“The story of Suvarna"

picture of Suvarna

Suvarna, thirty five year old woman lives in one of our working areas. She was referred to the Seher program by her sister, who used to come regularly for individual counseling sessions. It was during one such session that she spoke to the counselor about Suvarna.

The grassroots workers made an initial visit to the house for a physical viewing of Suvarna and her context. Suvarna seemed to be in isolation. She didn’t like to talk to people around, she wasn’t caring for herself, was not bathing, she didn’t brush her teeth, she wasn’t even having her meals. She looked extremely malnourished.

Whenever community workers visited her home, they found her sitting in a corner, just outside her house. She felt that people were talking about her. If someone visited her house, she thought they are talking about her as well. She therefore never liked to meet or talk to people, especially if they were not known to her.

She was getting easily irritated and frustrated due to small things. She had frequent anger outbursts. She used to lie-down on the bed for most part of the day. She also had physical complaints such as, severe pain in her abdomen during her menses, constipation, stomach trouble and headache

Suvarna stayed with her Mother and Father. She has one sister and two brothers. All of them were married and lived next doors, in the same vicinity, along with their families. Her father and her brother used to drink a lot. When she was young, her father used to be drunk all the time. Her mother used to work as a domestic help to make ends meet, to raise her 4 children

Her father organized for drinking and gambling games in the house. His friends used to come over and spend entire days in their house. They used to touch her all over her body when no one was looking and she couldn’t do anything about it. She was quite small. She started feeling more and more angry and helpless day by day. She was furious at her father for not protecting her. No one seemed to care about her. Everyone was caught up in their own things. She felt alone and neglected

Her home was no longer a safe place for her to live in. She started roaming around outside to escape this. She used to travel in buses from morning to till late evening aimlessly. During one such round, a ticket conductor and the bus driver took advantage of her vulnerability, and abused her sexually. She would easily trust people, all she was looking for was someone to love her, care for her and protect her. She met many boys and men, they all took advantage of her and abused her sexually, when still small.

She started experiencing severe body symptoms. She started washing and cleaning excessively, thinking that she had become dirty. She started hating men. She became suspicious of everyone. She spent hours in the bathroom, screaming and shouting, laughing spontaneously out of context, flinging things in the house and broke down. Doctors at a private hospital told that she had OCD. (Obsessive compulsive disorder). She was even administered ECT ( electro- convulsive treatment). They did not notice her extensive sexual abuse.

One of the first things, the team did with her was to befriend her, gain her trust, make her feel safe. This took a long time. Through this period, the only thing that was done was to drop into her house, smile at her, enquire how she was doing, spend a few minutes talking to her, and doing this over and over again, until there came a time soon, when she started waiting for the support visits to happen. This was her only social contract, and she craved it.

Intensive support counseling was done with her. Individual sessions based on Arts Based Therapy, Group sessions and sessions on self care were done simultaneously.

Gradually hope started building up. She was quite upfront about her issues, about people she hated and about what she wanted in life. A confrontation meeting was organized at her house. Police and the local people- her neighbours were involved in this meeting, to stop her father from having his drinking-gambling meets in the house.

The meeting was quite successful. Finally, Suvarna found some space to breathe. She started working as a salesgirl in a clothing center. She did many jobs to support her and her family. She used to feel happy whenever community workers used to visit her place.

In addition to supporting her one to one, intensive sessions on nutrition were also done with her. She was quite malnourished. To encourage her to eat, workers would visit her around meals time to coax her to eat, to talk about the nutritional value of what she was having and to make her aware of how her diet affected the way she was thinking. Sessions on eating mental health friendly foods were taken with her on a weekly basis.

In addition, multiple sessions with family, involving different family members were done simultaneously. They focused on care giving and support to Suvarna.

Relationship between her mother and her was strengthened. Her circle of care started responding to her in small ways. For the first time, she felt that she had someone who cared!

Lots of work was done on Suvarna’s thought issues. Emphasis was given upon how to move her thoughts from negativity to positivity. It was just a mind trick! She need not suffer from an invasion of thoughts always. Problem solving, hope building, stopping disturbing thoughts, distracting herself, focusing on the good things with awareness were among some of the issues dealt with in her sessions. Suvarna started embracing small changes based on her own experiences from using those skills. Her movement was very slow in going to the next step and next and so on.

For once, she stopped complaining. Her family members supported her wholeheartedly. She now feels very motivated to help other girls and women like her. Today, she is working for Bapu trust as a CMHV (Community mental health volunteer).


This was story 13. It is a true story.

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