More needed to help mental health patients

THERE are not enough nursing personnel to cover the needs of mental health patients. A shortage of staff in general is also evident and annual retirements are barely substituted because of the lack of qualified personnel.

These issues were highlighted yesterday by the Cyprus Mental Health Commission (CMHC), under the auspices of the Health Minister as well as the EU Health Commissioner.

A news conference was yesterday held in Nicosia in order to emphasise the needs of mental health patients and the importance of their integration into the community.
Reservations were expressed on bringing in help from overseas, as psychology and psychiatry are mainly based on verbal communication, therefore there is a need for personnel to be able to speak Greek.

Ways of moving forward are currently being discussed between health care professionals, government officials, patients and their families.

The 1997 Mental Health Law and the amendments that followed formed the drive for more progress in psychiatric reform, de-institutionalisation and the establishment of community psychiatry.

This focuses on detection, prevention, early treatment, and rehabilitation of emotional and behavioural disorders as they develop.

In a speech, President of the CMHC, Christodoulos Messis, said that, “in order to reduce the number of mental patients in the Athalassa Mental Institution, a great number of people are being released into nursing homes for the elderly no matter their age, with no plan of rehabilitation within the community. This is because the services responsible do not create appropriate guest-houses and boarding-schools to host these people, either temporarily or permanently. They are also failing to help them to return to active employment.”

According to Messis, there is only one encouraging model in the field of residential care on the island at present. It is located in Limassol and has been dubbed the ‘House in the Community.’

The guiding principle is the delivering of community-based services across the island.

Clinical psychologists, nurses and social workers all have a crucial role to play as members of therapeutic teams.

Commenting, Health Minister Costas Kadis said: “I want to reassure you that the Ministry’s efforts to strengthen the infrastructure of community psychiatry will be ongoing for the benefit of our citizens and for the good of our society”.