A call for society to be compassionate to mental health patients

Associate Professor in the Department of Public Health and Prevention Medicine at St. George’s University (SGU), Dr. Shelly Rodrigo is urging the nation to promote empathy, sympathy, tolerance and discipline to mental health patients.

Dr. Shelly Rodrigo

Dr. Rodrigo made the statement in a presentation at a Grenada Drug Epidemiology Network and National Observatory On Drugs (GRENDIN-NOD) Meeting at the Ministry of Education Conference Room.

She presented participants with an update on preliminary results of a regional study on drug treatment with focus on Grenada.

She spoke of family members having mixed experience when trying to obtain treatment for their loved ones and about an experience someone shared with her as she sought assistance for her son.

According to her, the person claimed that her son was arrested and taken to the psychiatric unit, and for over 24 hours she had no clue of what was happening to him.

“She (the mother) called around to various police stations, and then in speaking to a neighbour whose son was also arrested at the same point in time, she found out that the son was admitted to the facility”, she said.

“She went there and she actually felt that… she was not treated courteously by the staff she interacted with,” she added.

The study confined itself to persons who use substances, family members, and care providers.

Dr. Rodrigo said she learnt that the community considers the behaviour of a substance abuser to be a menace, and is seen as an outcast when he gets “high.”

She pointed out that family members indicated that members of the community do not assist substance abusers.

The Medical Professor who identified alcohol as one of the main substances used, said the community lives in denial that alcohol is a harmful drug.

Data collected by GRENDIN between January and June 2015 shows that persons between 16 and 17 indulge in the consumption of alcohol, while for marijuana the age is 15 years.

According to Dr. Rodrigo, some people might be correct in concluding that society is generally cruel to those with mental health problems.

The Medical Professor said all of the participants who were interviewed claimed that they receive no respect for their concerns and no disclosure regarding the treatment process from the service providers.

However, she stated that based on the data collected, it is difficult for the staff at the mental institutions to operate under the current conditions of the facility.

“The staff… are working in limited conditions… and they’re doing the best jobs right now that can be done,” she said.

Dr. Rodrigo believes the best treatment that can be offered is to have substance treatment moved away from the mental health facility.

She also stated that the wider community is not fully aware of what treatment services are available.

She felt that there is need to have more health promotion activities within specific communities on substance abuse.

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