Solomon Islands
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Mental Health Services Neglected for Far Too Long

The country joined the global community to celebrate and commemorate World Mental Health Day on the 10th October in Honiara.

Speaking on the theme “make mental health and well-being for all a global priority” the country’s head of mental health services Dr Paul Orotaloa said that the mental health landscape in the country is fast changing, and has been neglected for far too long.

He said that over the years the demand for resources and services continued to grow, particularly with the annual population growth rate being one of the highest in the world, currently at 2.8 percent.

Dr Orotaloa added that at this juncture it is only fitting that the focus is on making and prioritizing mental health and well-being, making it a national priority just as much as it is a global priority for all.

“The demand for mental health services in the country cannot be better illustrated than what is becoming a regular scenario on the streets of Honiara and elsewhere in the country. Individuals who need these services are roaming aimlessly in our society as if nobody is there to care,” he said.

He stressed that the National Psychiatric Unit (NPU) at Kilu’ufi in Malaita was built in the 1980s as a response to the need for these services at that time.

“Sadly, forty years on, the NPU still remains a 20 bed capacity unit for an ever growing population in the twenty first century Solomon Islands,” Dr Orotaloa said.

He went on to say that mental health services is almost non-existent in some of the provinces and this is worrying.

“In the country’s capital Honiara, mental health services are provided only on outpatient basis in a dilapidated building at the western end of the NRH compound sharing a common perimeter fence along the shoreline with the Lord Howe Settlement,” Mr Orotaloa stated.

He emphasized that it is unfortunate that everyone needing inpatient care cannot be accorded the service they need in the capital city but instead transferred to Kilu’ufi for treatment purposes.

Dr Orotaloa said that he is happy to see that work on the national mental health legislation for Solomon Islands is progressing and is urging responsible authorities to hasten its completion for parliament endorsement.

He added that this legislation will help establish the legal commitment for future development of these services once it is passed by parliament.

He further mentioned that his office is glad to note that the national health strategic plan for the next five years does contain mental health agendas.

Dr Orotaloa mentioned that the service is boosted this year with the inclusion of two psychiatric registrars.

“The mental Health Services is now receiving budgetary allocations annually through the MHMS and has been given the green light to run NPU at Kilu’ufi on grant basis like other general hospitals throughout the country,” he said.

He also stated that his office is happy with the collaborations fostered between national and international partners in addressing mental health issues in the country.