San-Ker celebrates 25 years of existence in Meghalaya

San-Ker celebrates 25 years of existence in Meghalaya

SHILLONG: Celebrating 25 years of its existence in the state of Meghalaya, a mental health institution, San-Ker, on Tuesday, recalled the journey towards achieving this milestone through an array of songs, testimonies and prayers at San-Ker in Mawlai-Mawroh here.

Started as a small institution on a plot of land which was once a cowshed in 1990, this institution founded by renowned physiatrist, Dr Sandi Syiem, gradually grew into a full-fledged mental health institution and has succeeded in creating a niche for itself in the arena of mental health care.

The celebration was observed in the midst of friends, invitees, well wishers and the patients of San-Ker. The gathering was also attended by Chief Adviser to the government of Meghalaya, DD Lapang, State Home Minister, Roshan Warjri and nationally acclaimed writer, Bijoy Hazarika.

Attending the function as the chief Guest, renowned actor, Victor Banerjee lauded the efforts of Dr Syiem in rendering selfless services to the people in need of help and care.

Congratulating San-ker on completing its 25 years of service, Banerjee highlighted the need to have people like Dr Syiem who would come forward and serve the people irrespective of their caste, creed and family background.

"We need to create a bridge to connect people through various ways and this is one such way in which we can reach out to people," said the famous actor.

Banerjee, who also runs a school for the blind people in Upper Assam, highlighted the difficulties and stigmatisation that people with disabilities have to go through everyday.

"We may have grown up to become big banyan or fig trees possessing all kinds of traits, but we must never forget that the roots are the same," Banerjee poetically said while referring to the fact that the society ostracise and look down on people suffering from mental illness, but they forget that these people are also members of that society and they too have equal rights.

On this day, Banerjee also felicitated four of the staff of San-Ker who have been associated with this institution since its inception. He also honoured the contributions of 17 others for their immense service to the state through San-Ker. He also released the souvenir of San-Ker.

Traditional and spiritual songs sung to the beat of the traditional drums and the duitara were mainly based on the theme of Sank-ker, 'With love, serve one another'. "Without love, we cannot succeed. A disease is treated not only by medicine but by the love and care you show them and that is what we have been doing here in Sanker for the past 25 years," Dr Sandi Syiem said.

Displaying courage and shedding fear and stigmatisation, some of the recovering patients of Sanker came forward to tell their stories to the world. "I have been blind but now I realise that I have wasted many years of my life on substance abuse. I seek help because I love my daughter and my wife. And I will never forget the wonders that God works on me through Sanker," a recovering patient said.

"Mental illness does not mean death, it is a disease and it is curable. People suffering from mental illness can still become productive members of the society," Dr Syiem said.

Though Meghalaya has attained its statehood, yet the universal problem of stigmatisation meted out to the mentally challenged is still poses a threat to differently-abled people of the state.

In the past few years, some people have started to accept mental illness as a disease but there are some who still consider mental disability as a demon-driven attitude.

Evidently a mental health patient from a village in South West Khasi Hills was thought to be a demon possessed and treated otherwise. While Sanker is celebrating 25 years of existence by recalling its services to people with mental illness, there are still some people who need protection from the so called 'sane' members of society. Condemning the cruel treatment by members of the dorbar in South West Khasi Hills, Dr Sandi Syiem today said that "such kind of  action is unexpectable in the 21st century. It is time for people to realise that mental health patients can be treated and be cured and can also be productive members of society", he added.

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