The dilemma of treating those with mental illness who are also orphans
Kaieteur News – There are a large number of suspected mentally ill people walking around the streets of the country. There are many others who are not mentally ill but orphaned but are treated as “crazy”.
Mental illness is a disease like any other illness. It afflicts the mind instead of the body but because the mind controls physical functions and actions, mental illness can have detrimental effects on the physical ability and composition of mentally ill patients.
There are treatments for mentally ill patients, but these are often comprehensive and costly. As such, there has been no significant attempt to address mental illness as a serious public health concern. Perhaps because more people with mental illness are off the streets than on the streets, the problem is assumed to be under control. Another reason may be the difficulty in identifying among the orphans who are mentally ill and merely deprived and imitating insanity as a survival mechanism.
If it’s difficult off the streets, imagine how difficult it is on the streets for those who have to exist on a daily basis, hand in hand, without permanent shelter and often having to relieve themselves in public .
As such, a plan is needed to tackle the increasing numbers of orphans and people with mental illness on our streets. We should not wait until a major international event takes place before taking steps to temporarily shelve these problems.
During 2007, the government urgently put forward a good face for hosting the Cricket World Cup at the last minute to bus many orphans into refuges. The public was assured that this would have been an ongoing effort.
Today, as many, if not more orphans on our streets as in 2007, question how effective and sustainable the drive to get residents off the streets and into a more comfortable environment where they are less at risk can be provide them with regular meals, a place to sleep and eventually reintegrate with their family and friends.
Then a few years ago there was a campaign to get people off the streets. It has even been reported that some of the evacuated were placed in the mental hospital in Berbice.
Unfortunately, years ago one of those individuals escaped from that organization and drowned in one of the area’s rivers. This raised concerns not only about stabilizing people but also about the security of that organization.
It has long been reported in Guyana that security in the mental hospital in the past has left much to be desired, because in the past, people from that institution could have been seen regularly and unsupervised wandering around town in the area.
So a number of questions emerge. What are the procedures used to determine access to a thinking organization? And have people been forcefully institutionalized in mental asylums in Guyana?
To date there has been no evidence that any illegal action has taken place in the stabilization of mentally ill persons in Guyana. But at the very least, no person should be admitted to a mental home or institution without a medical referral from a qualified professional.
As a person with a mental illness cannot be expected to make a reasonable decision to be admitted, most countries’ laws usually provide for that person to be stabilized on the recommendation of medical professionals. The situation is obviously worse as one cannot be assumed to be mentally ill, taken off the streets, seen by a doctor and then referred to a mental institution. If the person goes to a hospital or clinic and is then seen by a doctor, then the person can be legally placed.
But who takes the person to the hospital or clinic? If someone is forcefully taken away to be seen by a doctor, can that person be said to have been unlawfully abducted?
If Guyana wants to tackle the high number of orphans on its streets, it cannot do so without examining the laws and regulations concerning the stabilization of those with mental illness.
And for the simple reason that, among the hundreds of orphans on our streets, there are many people with mental illness, how these people are going to be treated is another problem.
Then there is the financial concern. In a country where there is competition for health resources, it will never be easy for governments to convince the public that more should be spent on people with mental illness.
In fact, if the average citizen knew exactly how much money needed to be spent to treat a mentally ill person back to good health, they would garner the sums and many might argue by such expenditure.
This is always unfortunate because mental illness is incurable; most mental conditions can be treated and in fact if treated early allow the patient to return to normal.
Mental illness is also like any other illness and just as great sums are going to be spent this year on dialysis, then perhaps the case of the mentally ill should be given some attention.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of this newspaper.)