Mental Health Patients Abused

Mental Health Patients Abused

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) has vehemently criticized the state of mental health treatment, asserting that certain actions and inadequate facilities amount to torture. In a recent report expressing grave concern over the ongoing rights violations against mentally ill patients, the HRCSL released guidelines coinciding with International Human Rights Day on December 10.

The interim report urgently calls for the enactment of a new Mental Health Act in response to key grievances, including staff mismanagement at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in Sri Lanka. Shocking findings reveal instances of staff physically abusing patients in CCTV blind spots and a suspicious death allegedly caused by a support staff member. The report, part of a ‘Fact Finding Mission on Right to Health and Liberty of Patients at the NIMH,’ emphasizes the need for immediate measures.

The HRCSL’s 11-page guidelines address the Ministry of Health, NIMH, Sri Lanka Police, and the Department of Prisons, recommending the immediate enactment of a Mental Health Act aligned with international standards. Urging the government to prioritize the well-being of mental health patients during rehabilitation, the guidelines also highlight issues with the administrative structure of the NIMH in Angoda Mental Health Asylum, the country’s largest mental health care facility.

Concerns raised encompass water provisions, food, spacing, and patient treatment, including unqualified individuals providing care. Additionally, there are issues with alternative treatments, medication shortages, and high costs. Water and sanitation problems, language barriers with Tamil-speaking patients, and communication difficulties are also identified. The HRCSL suggests improved staff training, including Tamil language proficiency, and calls for guidelines on food and grievance mechanisms at NIMH.

As a top priority, the HRCSL recommends the urgent enactment of a new Mental Health Act aligned with international standards. The report underscores the need for immediate action to rectify the distressing state of mental health treatment in Sri Lanka.

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