The Crusader of Mental Health

Story of a Counselor

It is the penultimate day of the 3-month counselors training. Participants are asked to volunteer to present case studies from their experience, which would be discussed by the group. Prakash Murthy*, an elderly person, who has hitherto been a passive participant, offers to speak.

The case is about a family he knows. It consisted of an elderly couple, a son and a daughter. The son was in his early thirties, a software engineer and a wild life enthusiast. He had learnt how to catch snakes and would get calls from people who had found a snake in their homes. One day he received a call from a man near Bannerghatta. A snake had entered into their house and was seen near his infant son, rearing its hood. The young man rushed to the spot in his car.

An hour later the father received a call from someone. His son had been bitten by the snake and was now in a nearby hospital. The doctors were not hopeful of reviving him, but they admitted him to ICU and put him on ventilator.
Six days later, on Ugadi, the first day of Kannada new year, the father was sitting alone in the attendants’ dormitory late in the evening, when he was called by a doctor. When he saw the doctor’s face, with a heavy heart he guessed what was to come.

Praksh’s voice has become thick with emotion. He removes his glasses and wipes it carefully, before resuming his talk. The family was devastated. Life had become meaningless; they did not know what to do. They discussed suicide as an option out of their misery.

“What do you think the family actually did and what could they have done to cope with the tragedy that had befallen them”, Prakash asks the trainees.

A few possibilities are suggested, from suicide, moving home to seeking psychotherapy.

Prakash allows them to talk and then responds. They did consider killing themselves and moving to a new place. But the daughter had heard about Samadhana. She said she would undergo counselors training and then help her parents cope with their grief. The father said he too would join the course.

Prakash paused for a while. “The family I am talking about is mine, and seated there is my daughter. We have joined this course. Initially I could not follow anything and found it hard to focus my attention. But slowly, it has started to help me. After I met many of few and heard your personal stories, I have realized there are many others who have faced misfortunes in their lives.”

Prakash and his daughter completed the course and are now volunteers at the center. His daughter works in a company and comes in on Saturdays. Prakash comes every day. Their home was a few kilometers away and Praskash would walk to the center. A year later, they shifted to a house right next to the center. He is at the center both in the morning and the evening sessions. He is also one of the office bearers of the counselors’ forum.

All the family members have registered with ZCCK (Zonal Coordination Committee of Karnataka for Transplantation) as organ donors, with NIMHANS for donating brain for medical study and with Bangalore Medical College for whole body donation. He carries the three cards with him everywhere. When he mentioned to his daughter that he had visited ZCCK and got an application form for himself, she asked how many forms had he got. When he replied three, she quickly took a form from him, filled it and signed it. He was moved by her action. No festivals are celebrated in the family; on Ugadi day, they visit an ashram or orphanage and make a donation, instead of performing Shraddha for the son.