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EDITORIAL: Mental Health Service Needs More Recognition

Mental illness is greatly misunderstood in Fiji. Sufferers constantly battle a stigma associated with the illness. As a consequence they become outcasts and loners in our communities. The sad thing
29 Aug 2015 10:42
EDITORIAL: Mental Health Service Needs More Recognition

Mental illness is greatly misunderstood in Fiji. Sufferers constantly battle a stigma associated with the illness. As a consequence they become outcasts and loners in our communities.

The sad thing about it is they do not know or understand their condition because they go around untreated. Worse, they get ridiculed by people who do not understand their condition.

Minister for Health and Medical Services Jone Usamate has been trying to raise public awareness about mental illness.

Yesterday, MPs attended a lunch where mental health specialists spoke to them about the illness. It is a subject that we need to talk about more because it is frequently misunderstood.

We should not be shamed of it because it is like any other illnesses. It has symptoms and it can be treated.

According to MI Fellowships the signs and indicators of mental illness are:

  • Agitation
  • Being overly loud
  • Vacant or seemingly preoccupied (‘spaced out’)
  • Pacing
  • Inappropriately dressed (eg wearing a coat and a beanie when it’s 35 degrees)
  • Withdrawn
  • Paralysed or stuck to the same spot for a long time
  • Displaying signs of paranoia. All these can be warning signs that a person is unwell. When approached, it may be difficult for the person to focus. If the person is delusional or experiencing hallucinations, or if the person is feeling paranoid, it is vital to remember that their ability to focus on you and what you are saying, and their ability to respond, may be severely restricted.

MI Fellowship is an Australian not-profit organisation whose primary purpose is to support people with mental illness and other psychosocial disabilities, their families and their friends in order to gain inclusion into communities; to create a home, get a job and build meaningful relationships. It provides this support through recovery, education and advocacy programmes.

It acknowledged that mental illness and other psychosocial disabilities have a broad impact on associated families and friends who are often denied effective support systems. It assists people with mental illness and other psychosocial disabilities and their families to gain better access to community supports. It works towards enabling social inclusion with people who experience mental illness and other psychosocial disabilities, their families and friends.

A  study showed there was a dearth of information on the extent of knowledge about mental illness and attitudes toward the mentally ill in Fiji.

A majority of the subjects attributed the cause of mental illness to substance abuse. They believed in the diversity of mental illness, considered hospital as an important source of help and acknowledged the effectiveness of medication.

Less than one-fifth of the subjects were willing to marry or employ mentally ill persons. About 42 per cent of the sample would be deterred by embarrassment from seeking help. The study concluded that health education is capable of positively influencing knowledge about, and attitudes toward, mental illness in Fiji.

Behaviour is the manifestation of the mental state of a person. Those who suffer from mental illness behave abnormally and need urgent attention.

People sometimes joke about St Giles, the only mental hospital in the country. But seriously, it is engaged in an important service.

It is high time we give it and other mental services (private and public) the recognition they deserve.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

 




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