Antara: offering help, hope, and education in West Bengal for 45 years

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On a recent mission to India, the expanding care facilities and educational programs of Kolkata’s Antaragram impress visitors from Italy’s ArtValley.

Representatives from Italy’s ArtValley, on a recent mission to India, found that Antara may literally mean “Heart”, but as this concept is embodied by the institution of Antaragram, it signifies something more: “the core of one’s inner self where brain and heart function together for a cause”. The genesis of Antara in 1971 was in response to the turbulence of the times. Mother Teresa, Dr. Satrujit DasGupta, Mr. P.M. John, Fr. Andrew, Dr.R.B. Davis and others opened a first outpatient clinic in Kolkata with the primary objective of providing care, treatment and rehabilitation to the destitute and very poor – irrespective of caste, color or creed – who were suffering from mental disorders including drug addiction and alcoholism.

By 1979 it was clear that more needed to be done for the expanding number of patients. Land was purchased in the outskirts of Kolkata to establish a Mental Health Hospital. The site was called ‘Antaragram’ and Mother Teresa laid the foundation stone in 1980. In an open letter, the Executive Committee president, Kamal Prakash, notes: “[The] government of India has acknowledged the growing problem of mental illness and expects that by 2020, nearly 20% of Indian population would suffer from some form of Mental illness… this also increases the responsibility of institutions like Antara to spread awareness about mental health, how to build a mentally healthy society, take care of those who suffer from mental illness, and rehabilitate them into the main stream society with dignity.”

Today, this special mission has blossomed not only into a 200-bed psychiatric hospital with separate facilities for men, women, and children – the largest such private hospital in Eastern India – but also into a scientific institution with facilities that include: residential treatment centers, occupational and aesthetic therapy and vocational training units as well as a general medical clinic, community education, individual and family counseling. The staff lives on site and, in addition to creating a family-like atmosphere for the patients, it ensures the availability of 24-hour care. Antara also runs four satellite clinics in remote areas in order to make mental health care available to the people in these areas.

During their visit on August 21, 2016, Dr. Alberto Cavicchiolo, Director, and Dr. Francesca Bruni, President of Italy’s M/s. ArtValley – guests of Mr. Kamal Prakash, president of the Executive Committee – brought art supplies, including paints and canvases, to Antaragram where they noted the patients’ artistic talents. Dr. Bruni and Dr. Cavicchiolo would like to to congratulate and encourage Antara’s recovering persons, for their artistic skills in painting.

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