Holistic approach required to deal with mentally ill persons

first_imgDear Editor,Mentally ill persons are still roaming the streets freely and disrupting life in Guyana, in spite of repeated announcements of plans to solve this problem.No matter who is the President of the country, no matter which political party is in power, this problem just goes on and on and seems to be growing, year in, year out.Mentally ill people, some barely clothed, wander our streets on busy business days, interfering with or scaring persons conducting business in Georgetown and other parts of Guyana. In some cases, they attack persons or are themselves attacked, abused, and sometimes even killed.Our Police are not trained or equipped to handle mentally ill people. They do not have suitable detention facilities for them, nor do they have the legal authority to remove them from the streets willy-nilly. In this scenario, it is unfair to expect our Police Officers to deal effectively with the mentally ill.Many of the mentally ill resort to shelters for food and rest, but most of these shelters were not specifically established to accommodate and care for the mentally ill, so they are also not equipped to deal with them.For instance, take the Hugo Chávez Centre that recently had to deal with allegations involving mentally challenged inmates.In this case, I will not rush to judge the administrators because I have been somewhat involved in several shelters for homeless people, drug addicts and mentally ill cases and I know what the administrators have to go through. It is no piece of cake.Persons who have not visited these centres and observed their daily operations have no idea what the administrators, support staff and counsellors have to go through when dealing with mentally challenged and damaged people.Furthermore, in these institutions, strict rules and regulations are necessary because there must be order and discipline for inmates to get beds and three meals a day plus access to medical facilities, therapists and so forth.But many mentally challenged inmates reject the rules and fight the staff because they want to continue doing what they want when they want as if they are still on the street. Many refuse to bathe and create a horrific odour in the institutions.When the Hugo Chávez Centre was constructed, it was not for mentally ill people, drug addicts or street people, but for those with skills who needed a ‘lend-a-hand’ support system.The Centre was set up to be a supportive institution for persons with marketable skills like tailors, agriculturalists, seamstresses, teachers and cooks. Mentally ill people should really be in the Berbice Rehabilitation Centre.There have been horrible cases of street dwellers and mentally challenged people being murdered in Guyana.There have also been many cases in which the deaths of such persons were suspected to be due to some kind of abuse, but this could not be proved due to lack of evidence.When the current Government was in Opposition, they pledged to end the problem of pavement dwellers when they got into power. When I saw those pronouncements, I immediately suspected it was just campaign talk. It seems that I was right.The fact is: for some undisclosed reason, the current Administration did not keep its promise. They have not yet erected even one shelter for street-dwellers and mentally ill persons. The existing shelters being managed by the current Government were erected by previous Governments.It is my personal perception that no government has the capacity to end homelessness in Guyana or any part of the world. Many of these people choose to be on the streets because they do not like to be housed in any shelter with rules and order.This is why it is a sad sight for Guyana to see drug addicts and other homeless persons loitering on the busy carriageway near Bourda Cemetery. It sends a disturbing message about our country and will obviously not inspire investors and tourists, even though homelessness exists in every part of the world.To date, we have never approached the Government for any financial support and we have never asked anyone for any assistance.All this is being done by the grace of God, the members of the organisation, the Guyana Islamic Forum and some volunteers have been providing some resources. There are a few other institutions involved in similar activities.I believe dealing with this is too humongous a task for Government alone. The Government needs to launch a multi-dimensional approach involving various sectors of business, Government, non-governmental organisations, etc, to address this matter.This issue must be addressed in a holistic manner that does not make it appear that there is some political aim to be achieved other than service to our people.Sincerely,Haji Roshan KhanSnrNational ChairmanUniversal PeaceFederation (Guyana)last_img