When Lloyd Brennan first came to India from Australia in 2009, it was with the purpose of establishing an institution, one which had never been envisioned before in a place like Nitte (a rural area in coastal Karnataka). Dr. Naveen Chandra Shetty, an Indian psychiatrist, convinced Lloyd to travel to India and to pursue that dream.
Today, the Nitte Rural Psychiatric Centre is a mental hospital for patients with an efficient rehabilitation centre. This psychiatry centre, which Dr. Naveen and Lloyd envisioned 5 years ago, is now a proud landmark in this rural area.
A firm believer and executor of the ideal of rehabilitation to cure mental disorders, Lloyd Brennan has been working in the field for the past 40 years.
Our interview with Lloyd took us on a journey through his life. With 40 years in the field of Psychiatry, as a nurse, Lloyd says he didn’t always want this life – He wanted to be a train driver! In fact, he was initially an ambulance driver, and his job was to tend to emergencies. Lloyd admits that by then, accidents were fine, but the trauma in the heads of the people meant nothing to him. He often wondered why if people cut their wrists or took an overdose, they didn’t just do it properly? A change in career also changed Lloyd’s views.
A Life Changing Accident
When Lloyd finished his general training, he went back to ambulance services as a paramedic. His first job was to tend to a young man killed in a car crash. “What I observed at the venue was,” Lloyd narrates, “The young man, killed by the impact of the car and now dead on his driver’s seat, had a box of food and a bottle of milk on the seat beside him.” It pained Lloyd to think that there must be someone at home, perhaps a mother, sister or wife, who packed the food for him, unaware that he would never have the chance to eat it.
“Now, they didn’t know that he was dead either. There was so much more to him than just being an emergency case, he was a real person like anyone of us”. That, Lloyd says, changed his way of looking at patients.
He began working at the psychiatric ward, and Lloyd says that he saw a different side of people with a mental illness too. “I got to see why they took an overdose, and what was happening in their lives. That changed my life.”
Rehabilitation Through Lloyd’s Eyes
Lloyd says that he is a huge believer in rehabilitation, and that’s what he’s been focusing on for almost 4 decades.
“Patients with a mental disease,” he says, “Mostly don’t have a reason to get out of bed every morning. They don’t have a reason to freshen up, maintain hygiene or look after themselves. That’s because they don’t have what everyone else has – no family, no friends, no job, and no purpose in life. All they have is a record of a bad past and medication to survive”.
He continues, “One in ten patients with Schizophrenia commit suicide because of this. There was one man who shot himself in the bathroom, and another who impulsively stood before a train. What we do with medication, other than treating their disease, is give them insight into the emptiness of their lives.”
He continues, “But when we rehabilitate them, we allow them to talk, and to socialise. When they have something to do – a purpose and people too – life seems normal. We do education programs. We go on holidays as well and become tourists. That is like any normal person and not a mental patient. That is why rehabilitation is so important.”
The Highlights Of His Career
“The last 10 years. In the 90s, we got Clozapine, a highly effective psychiatric medicine in Australia. To me, that was a wonder, as it really got people better. Long term patients started leaving the rehabs as better people. That made my last 10 years the best part of my career.”
Lloyd adds, “Also, I’m definitely most proud of this institution here in Nitte. To be able to establish something like this is an accomplishment in itself, and I am incredibly proud that I was a part of its making.”
Advice For Budding Psychiatrists
What Lloyd always tells the people who train under him is, “No matter where you end up, wherever your life takes you, treat patients as people. They’re not merely subjects, they’re all real people like you and me, and treat them like that”.
For Lloyd, life was the best teacher possible. He learned all his lessons through experience. Talking to Lloyd feels like talking to an old friend, as he happily shares his life stories with all those who are interested. At the psychiatry centre, one can see that he treats the patients like his own kids. Lloyd is not just a happy soul, but also a source of happiness and purpose to the people around him.
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