True Stories:
This Book:
Story 5

The story of :
Shaikh family

success story :
the outcome of Community Service Program| SEHER

“Shaikh Family”

picture of shk fly

A dilapidated structure for a house, the constant sounds of hammering and banging from a workshop underneath, creaky wooden stairs and an occasional rat crossing your way, no lights on the stairway or corridors, no neighbours.... an all-in-one room for a family of four - an aging mother and three grown up children- adults actually- all in extreme states of psychotic disturbance !!

Meet the Shaikh family! BT was contacted by a relative of the Shaikh family about 2 years back requesting help for the family. It sounded unbelievable initially- all three kids with mental health crisis almost under a house arrest kind of situation; and the aged mother running from pillar to post in the hope of assistance for her grown up kids. Promptly the team visited the house and saw nothing different-

Here was a family living with bare resources, not connected to the outside world and severely disturbed. Kalim the eldest was yelling, hurling abuses to some voice in is head when we stepped into the house; Shakila the younger- weak and frail lay on a small bed staring blankly at the ceiling, while Shabbir almost naked lay on the floor. The sight was very disturbing,

no matter how much we tried, it was impossible to connect to them. They were at a distant land in their own worlds.Their father had passed on many years back and the mother had been running the house and caring for them since the past many, many years. As far as the mother remembers they have al l been ‘like this’ for the past 7 to 8 years.

She manages to get ration and monetary help from local trusts or through alms. She receives Money, food, clothes etc. from people who know of her situation. However, we realized that inspite of the constant visits and suggestions for assistance offered to the family, the mother never accessed them. She did not shoo us away either. .

Showcasing the pitiable state of the family to outsiders seemed to be a way of generating income for the mother.No matter what interventions we went in with, the mother would always find reasons or ways to evade them. Since the family were locked away in their own world there was no way to pressurise them using support from her extended family, relatives or neighbours.

People were scared of this family- they feared the 'mentally ill' within this house. No one spoke to them. Having tried a number of strategies and having offered the choice of a variety of services to pick from, there was no change, no movement in the 3 or in the mother; and giving up on them seemed to be the only way out. How far can you push somebody, really? Sooner or later if the person does not take self responsibility to change their own lives, nothing can be done.

A number of discussions on the use of persuasion and pressure were done among the team members.However everyone was convinced that it was important to break this impasse, that quality of life was suffering, there was a risk of survival and we had to come up with something innovative to make this family move. Somehow we got the contact details of people who mattered to the family- an Imam who was supporting the family; and the family’s family doctor.

The team established contact with them, shared our side of the story and requested them to intervene, use their influence for enabling access to the 3 individuals and ensuring service reach to them. We waited quietly for things to roll out and then take it from there. Within a few days the mother approached the centre asking how we could help! We laid out the last 2 years' work in front of her, and showed her that we are trying to help the family.

She explained that she had backed off because she was looking for a shelter home, or the mental hospital. We responded that there was no need for institutionalization, and explained to her our range of services. We gave her many examples, asked her to connect with many families, so that she has faith in what we do. She did not actually do so, but was convinced by what we said to her. She allowed access to work with the children.

It was as if starting all over again. The entire process took us almost 2 years, our fieldworkers relentlessly kept up with the visits in spite of the undercurrents of evasion and resistance. That moment was grabbed by the team. Just when we were considering giving up, another door had opened. Without losing time, the field team started making the visits with renewed rigour. The only objective they carried this time was to befriend Shakila, Kalim and Sabbir.

Shakila was the first to respond. The fist indicator came when she asked our fieldworker why we had not shown up the week before- this was the start of the many stories Shakila had to share with us. We were surprised by the content of her sharing. She just couldn’t stop talking- telling stories about her childhood, her father, their home, her worries for her brother, her fears and so on. Gradually we pulled her out of the house, and she started her weekly visits to the centre for group sessions.

Once she learned about others going through more or less the same situation as herself, she loosened up even more. She walked on the street from her home to the centre as if seeing things around for the very first time. She was always escorted by the field staff. For the very first time, we saw her smile, saw her groove to an old Mithun Chakraborthy number and for the very first time speak to others. Her journey had just begun.

Her mother was happy and satisfied after seeing Shakila recover; so now she allowed us closer to work with the others in the family.Today Shakila is not just a consistent member of the group, but also provides peer support to her other group friends. She does the household chores, takes care of her brothers, including some self care sessions for them; She steps out of her house with them to shop for groceries.

Her neighbours have started approaching the family and do not perceive them as a threat anymore. Both Kalim and Shakila are taking homeopathic medications, and are on our beat for recovery support as per our 8 Point Framework. Shakila recovered with intensive peer support, nutritional supplements, Arts Based Therapies and group support, and diligent practice of self care techniques.

It took just 2 months from the time her mother agreed to opt into the program, for Shakila to show significant improvements. Sabbir is still far from reach but hopes of getting him around are going strong. The mother is being independently supported in her care giving skills and reducing her own burnout in weekly sessions with a counsellor.

It only takes so much and so long!! Giving up on someone is as easy as it is difficult to hold on for just a little bit more. You never know when a person will come around, and when he or she does, the door better be open!

This was story 5. It is a true story.
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