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From bullock cart to modern ambulance Kerala’s 150-year-old mental health centre comes a long way

Kerala’s 150-year-old mental health centre has come a long

Through a photo exhibition Kerala’s well-known Kuthiravattom Mental Health Centre located in Kozhikode shows how the institution which is commemorating its 150th anniversary has changed overtime as has also the perception about mental illness.

In one black and white frame one can view a bullock cart standing in the campus of the Centre while in another it shows a modern-day ambulance. The former was used to transport patients to this institution which started in 1872 and then known as Lunatic Asylum of Calicut while now the latest mode of transport is used.

Initially it was started to house patients who were British soldiers and suffering from mental illness. With passage of time the name of the Centre has also undergone changes. From Asylum it became a Mental Hospital and then Mental Health Centre symbolising the change in the attitude of people and society towards the issue of mental illness.

Sharing details about this institution, P.C. Aravindakshan, KMHC’s Superintendent-in-charge said it was established by erstwhile Madras Presidency for the insane from the army. Later, the Centre started admitting non-English and civilian patients.

Interestingly before Independence the institution was administered by the Jail Department and the inspector-General of Jail was its head. In 1950 it was transferred to the Health Department.

Until 1912 the doctors and nursing staff in the Centre were English while facilities for the Indian and British patients were kept separate. In the 1920s the term lunatic was dropped from the hospital name.

Rehabilitation work in the centre was prevalent in the colonial times with stitching and weaving being one of the main jobs done by the inmates.

Currently the Centre houses more than 480 inmates, including 170 women. The State Government is all set to make it match international standards.