Mental health experts in Laos believe the use of so-called psychological first aid is the best way to prevent an increase in the number of mental health patients.
The majority of Lao people with mental health issues do not have access to treatment and other basic health services because Laos lacks trained personnel in this field.
Programme Manager Dr Chantharavady Choulamany of Basic Needs, an international NGO focused on mental health issues, spoke to Vientiane Times last week at a press conference to mark World Mental Health Day.
She said “We urgently need to implement the concept of psychological first aid in Laos.”
She claims efforts in support of the day will focus on basic, pragmatic psychological support by people who find themselves in an assisting role, whether they be health staff, teachers, community workers or police officers.
“Despite its name, psychological first aid covers both psychological and social support. Just like general health care never consists of physical first aid alone, similarly, no mental health care system should consist of psychological first aid alone,” she said.
“Indeed, the investment in psychological first aid is part of a longer-term effort to ensure that anyone in acute distress due to a crisis in mental health is able to receive basic support. Moreover, those who are in need of more than psychological first aid will receive additional, advanced support from health care and social services,” she added.
Dr Chantharavady explained that practitioners in Vientiane have more of an understanding about mental health treatment in their communities. This means they can better ascertain the mental and physical health of their patients in comparison to rural areas.
Thousands of people with mental health conditions around the world are deprived of their human rights. They are not only discriminated against, stigmatised and marginalised but are also subject to emotional and physical abuse in both mental health facilities and the community at large.
Poor quality care due to a lack of qualified health professionals and dilapidated facilities leads to further violations.
According to Basic Needs, there are over 70,000 people in Vientiane with reported mental health issues. At the same time, only about 29,000 people with mental health issues have access to treatment and health services because Laos lacks both human and financial resources in the field of mental health.
This year, the WHO will be raising awareness of what can be done to ensure that people with mental health conditions can continue to live with dignity, through human rights oriented policy and law, training of health care professionals, respect for informed consent to treatment, inclusion in decision-making processes, and public information campaigns.
Source: Vientiane Times