Posted by : Posted on : 20-Nov-2019

Solomon Islands: A sad story of mentally ill persons not getting the right degree of family support and a lack of specialized services to access hospital services

Writing in today’s edition of the Island Sun newspaper, Jenniffer Kusapa, a staff reporter said, “The concept of wantokism has never existed when it comes to mental health.”

She was reporting on an interview with Dr. Paul Orotaloa, the Head of the Mental Health Division.

This is her story of that interview, quote:

Dr Paul Orotaloa in an interview said one aspect that is difficult to address in assisting mentally-ill people with family support.

Many mentally-ill people are neglected in the society and they are not being looked after by families because of their mental status, Dr Orotaloa said.

He said not all mentally-ill person roaming around the street of Honiara access the services provided by the Mental Health at the National Referral Hospital due to lack of specialized people to assist and bring them to the Hospital to access the services.

Dr Orotaloa said families should support mentally-ill persons to access the services provided.

And thus the Wantok system does not work in the case of mental health people and you can tell the difference when someone is physically sick and admitted at any of the other wards in the hospital you can see families and friends come and visit the sick patient, compared to a mentally-ill patients. Nobody will be there to show their support”, Dr Orotaloa said.

He also said that people should not neglect those mentally-ill but should assist them to access the services that are provided to help them, and he called on families to support their family member if they became ill with mental health issues.

It is known the Solomon Islands still faces significant shortages and geographical imbalances in the distribution of skilled health workers and resources, which severely impact the delivery of mental health services. The government's Integrated Mental Health Service has emphasised the importance of greater community ownership and involvement in community-based mental health care, and of moving from centralised services to increased local and accessible care.

It can be recalled that from 2012 to 2014, the Solomon Islands Integrated Mental Health service worked with Asia-Australia Mental Health to build workforce capacity and deliver sustainable community mental health programs.

Supported by the Australian Aid Program's Public Sector Linkages Program, the project shared resources and fostered links between public sector agencies in Australia, Fiji and the Solomon Islands.

Key learning points from the collaboration included the critical need to establish partnerships with community stakeholders, the importance of sustaining a well-functioning mental health team, and optimising the strengths of the local resources in the Solomon Islands.

It is hoped following Dr Oratalaloa’s disclosures that the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including mental health, and the need to address its impact in the Solomon Islands will again re-engage Australia in seeing that the National Referral Hospital will get further help in securing specialized people to ensure mentally ill people in the community get access to care at the NRH.

By highlighting concerns over mental health one must hope, too, relatives and friends of those that have mental health issues will better support those that suffer the unfortunate infliction.

Yours sincerely

Frank Short

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