Law student helps woman separated by mental illness to reunite with her child

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Mental illness has been a reason for a rupture in many families and those who survive it are still not accepted readily by society.

Similar is the case with Asha (name withheld), whose struggle is heart rendering. After she was found howling and shouting at Nagpur railway station by the Child Line Staff and railway police, they took her to a magistrate and was subsequently declared unsound and to be admitted to Nagpur Regional Mental Hospital. She was admitted to the acute ward from where she was shifted to the stable patient department after one week. There she met Ritu Jagwani, a first year B.A. LL.B. (Hons.) intern from NMIMS Kirit P Mehta School of Law.

Ritu Jagwani
Ritu Jagwani

Ritu describes Asha’s case as a curious one. “After a week of being admitted, Asha approached me and started telling her story, the way she was talking was absolutely normal.  I felt no instance of mental illness in her. She accepted that she behaved abnormally a few days back. She wanted me to bring her 6-month child to her, though she was not aware of where the child is.”

For Asha, Ritu had to cross a lot of impediments. Ritu, initially managed to convince the medical officer to prepare a discharge from the hospital. The Tata Trusts staff helped Ritu with the location of the orphanage where the child was kept in a safe condition from the time of Asha’s admission..

The orphanage was ready to give the child but there was one last problem – will Asha’s family and husband accept her and the child? If not, where will she go?

The Social worker said “If the brother and husband are not ready to accept her, then the hospital will direct them to do so by directly, sending Asha and her child there with two policemen and a female guard.” However Ritu felt, this move may be counter-productive, so she suggested that Asha should call her husband. Ritu’s idea worked and the husband agreed to take her back. Both Ritu and the Social worker convinced Asha’s family members to take her and the child back home.

“We were informed that she left the Hospital, however I was unable to meet her one last time and see the smile on her face of being with her family,” Ritu said.

Ritu’s sensitivity and quick thinking helped a child from being an orphan. Ritu fortunately opted to be an intern as part of a collaboration between her institution and TATA TRUSTS for providing legal aid to mental health inmates in Regional Mental Hospital, Nagpur. Her formative learning in Kirit P Mehta School of Law has helped her set a heroic example for her peers and the society.