WHO report condemns low standard of European mental health care institutions

WHO report condemns low standard of European mental health care institutions

The standard of mental health care in European countries is quite low, according to a recent report by the World Health Organization (WHO). Of the more than 2000 ratings made by national assessment teams, only 25 percent of the institutions spread across the continent conformed to international standards of care – in spite of the fact that nearly 27 percent of the adult population (between 18-65 years) in Europe experienced at least one of a series of mental disorders in the past year.

The report evaluated a total of 75 institutions across 24 countries and Kosovo and found that a majority of them did not meet the standards of even basic institutional care, like no supply of toilet paper, broken windows, toilets without doors, shower screen or curtains, and others. Moreover, in some facilities, the patients were found sleeping on floors and the beds were infested with bugs.

Further, the report noted that the violations differed among the institutions. While there were institutions that restricted patient communication with people living outside the walls of the centers, including their families, relatives and friends, some allowed limited communication, but without adhering to the service users’ right to privacy in communications.

The lack of community supported-housing often made the staff see the patients as a permanent fixture in the facility. Also, the absence of any kind of life skill or vocational training left the patients ill-equipped to lead a life outside the institution. Hence, the staff or the community did not make any efforts to rehabilitate the recovered individual in the community.

Further, some institutes had not only neglected and isolated the patients but also subjected their female patients to sexual abuse and reportedly conducted forced abortions of resulting pregnancies.

Report is an eye opener

The report was the much-needed peep behind the closed doors of long-term mental health institutions. Disappointingly, a majority of the evaluated institutions violated rights of residents, including their rights to dignity, liberty, physical and mental integrity, legal capacity, and freedom from torture and ill-treatment.

Additionally, the assessment revealed a general lack of awareness about mental health and human rights among the staff. Even in the United States, the burden of mental health has risen primarily due to lack of affordable facilities and the stigma associated with mental illness that prevents people from seeking help for their mental disorders.

The report has presented deep insights into the inadequacies of mental health rehabs. Further, it has also suggested that improvement in mental health care cannot be achieved by renovating the building or increasing the number of patients, however a deeper level of education, literacy and awareness about mental health and its impact and human rights is needed. “This assessment takes us to the next phase of work, where we move from quality assessment to actual quality improvement,” said Dr Daniel Chisholm, program manager for mental health at WHO/Europe.

Measures for a better future

An ideal situation would be to move away from institutional care adopt a community-based care, but the transition is a time-taking process. The need of the hour is education and awareness about mental problems that will encourage people to get 24/7 mental health treatment and care. Amidst, equipping the staff of the institutions with thorough knowledge and information about mental health can contribute significantly.

Further, seeking treatment proactively for people battling a mental disorder can help do away with the discrimination associated with mental disorder. It is this stigma that has resulted in regression and negligence currently prevailing in the mental health care sector. Therefore, if you or a loved one is battling a mental disorder, seek early intervention from 24/7 Mental Health Helpline. Call at our 24/7 helpline number (855) 653-8178 or chat online with our experts to get connected with the best 24/7 mental health treatment center near you.

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