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Mentally-ill criminals lack care

Update: February, 29/2012 - 10:39

 

A nurse delivers medicine to mentally-ill patients in the northern province of Thai Binh's Centre for Psychiatric Nursing. Little attention to mental health of criminals threatens the safety of those who come in contact them, experts warn. — VNA/VNS Photo Huu Viet
HA NOI — The lack of attention to mentally-ill criminals has created growing concerns regarding the safety of those who come in contact with them, experts have said.

Last year a man in Ha Noi's Ung Hoa District used a towel to suffocate both his wife and two children while one in Long Bien District was arrested for stabbing his aunt as part of a plan to wipe out his entire family. Another man on Pham Dinh Ho Street killed his aunt and injured several others without an apparent reason.

According to doctors, all the perpetrators were receiving treatment for schizophrenia, a brain disorder causing hallucinations.

Dr Ly Tran Tinh, director of the Ha Noi Mental Hospital, said the majority of people with mental illnesses could be cured after treatment. Serious cases pertaining to schizophrenia, alcohol-related mental disorders and brain injuries, which accounts for 2 per cent of the population, require long-term treatment however.

Meanwhile, a shortage of hospitals and medical services has forced such patients to be treated as outpatients when hospitalised for several weeks.

Ministry of Health figures have shown that there are about 12 beds for every 100,000 patients in Viet Nam instead of the required 30. The Ha Noi Mental Hospital, with 440 beds, currently treats more than 16,000 patients nationwide.

"Nowhere is there enough beds for every patient," Tinh said, "people usually go to hospital, take regular tests and get tablets as required."

However, because many families fail to take sufficient care of their mentally ill relatives, diseases worsen which often leads to violent behaviour.

In addition, local mental management has remained weak, with only five to seven doctors specialised in mental healthcare in most cities and provinces, meeting only half the demand.

Low awareness had also contributed to the seriousness of the problem, Tinh said.

Government policies to support patients with VND270,000-VND540,000 (US$13.5-$27) per month, depending on the severity of their disease, coupled with free checks-up and tablets during treatment, have helped ease the financial burden of recovery.

However, Tinh called on the Government to increase hospital and health clinic resources to better care for patients and assist social integration.

"The incomes of health staff specialised in mental diseases should be enhanced to attract more to work in this stressful field," he said, adding their incomes were currently the lowest in the health sector.

Dr Dinh Thi Ngoc Oanh, from the Research Centre for Child Psychology, said many people had no idea how to react when mentally ill people lost control of themselves, which could entail terrible consequences.

Oanh said the Ministry of Health's community-based programme to take care of mental patients had been carried out in 7,700 communes, meeting only 47 per cent of the total target.

"Raising public awareness should be a widespread endeavour," she said. — VNS

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