The government formulated the mental health policy 13 years ago, but officials of the concerned ministry are ignorant about the existence of the policy’s “master copy” let alone its implementation.
“We recently got a copy of the policy from a staff of the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP). But we have not seen the master copy bearing the authorised seal,” said a source.
Even though the Cabinet had approved the National Mental Health Policy in 1997, the law has not been implemented.
Dr. Baburam Marasini, senior public health admi-nistrator at the MoHP, said the policy could not be implemented due to lack of required human resources. He, however, expressed ignorance about the original copy’s whereabouts.
The policy aimed to provide mental health services to all Nepalis by 2000. The document had also envisaged development of the required manpower to provide mental health services at the grassroots. Had the policy been implemented, there would have been at least one clinical psychologist and provision for psychological counseling in each district hospital. It had also assured to protect human rights of mental patients and to generate awareness for holistic health approach.
“Health experts say that one person out of four suffers from mental illness and the toll is likely to rise. But, the government has turned a blind eye to such important issue,” said Jagannath Lamichhane, a mental health rights activist. “I couldn’t get a copy of the mental health policy for long. When I got one and went through it, I found it irrelevant because it focused only on medical facilities rather than psychological and social aspects.”
Statistics at Patan Mental Hospital (PMH) show that there are 0.27 million patients of severe mental illness and 4 million general in Nepal. Mental illness covers 12 to 13 percent of the total number of illness in the country, according to a research of Dr. Surendra Serchan, PMH director. There are 400 beds for patients of mental illnesses across the country with 50 in PMH.
Experts maintain that the government’s failure to implement the policy has added patients’ woes.
“The policy should be implemented with necessary amendment,” said Lamichhane.
Posted on: 2010-06-18 08:27