Life inside 4 walls: the differentiated onesArmenia
According to the data provided by RA Ministry of Health, there are about 54,000 people with mental health problems in Armenia today.They are all under the supervision of doctors, but not all of them want to be taken to the hospital: some prefer to conceal their health problem; others are just terrified by the thought of living in the hospital. According to the report by the Human Rights Defender of Armenia, staying in a number of psychiatric hospitals in Armenia is a serious challenge for the patient.
Let no one know that she is sick
25-year-old Nelli (the name is changed) lives in one of the villages of Lori. Since childhood she had strange behavior: sometimes the girl becomes aggressive, and sometimes she is very indifferent.According to her mother, Nelli was either silent for hours, and didn’t pay attention to anyone, or she just started to break stuff being under her hands. Worrying about her daughter’s psychological condition, she went to the hospital with her. The experts there have given a terrible diagnosis- Nelli has a mental disorder.
“From time to time we go to a psychiatric hospital, where she gets examined and takes special medications, due to which she is mostly calm.There are cases when neurosis becomes aggravated and she becomes uncontrollable.I'm only scared of a thought that suddenly she will hurt herself. I don’t care if she damages the house”, says mother, who moved to the village with her daughter 20 years ago.
“We lived in Syunik region.When the disease was diagnosed, we decided that we would live in this distant village.We wanted to live in a relatively less populated place.When we moved, my husband left for work abroad at that time to send money for treatment, although we were told that it would not be healed.He went and did not come back. He didn’t need a sick girl”, the woman recalls.
In Syunik, the family is rarely live. Though he had invited us to Syunik for the interview, then we left for Lori, where we met Nelly.
We failed to talk with Nelli. Her mind is distracted. She is playing with a doll in a corner. Mother says her daughter feels as if she is still 5-6 years old.
“My daughter is embarrassed by the walls of this house, she wants to go out and play with little children of the village,and I forbid her; I won’t let anybody know that my daughter such has a severe problem. It’s my pain. I don’t want to speak out loud about it. When the day comes, I take her to the hospital and bring her home and I never let her go out without me. Only with me, only holding my hand”, says her mother.
Although the bathroom is new and is in good condition, the patients have to queue to enter there.There are two toilets on each floor.
Psychiatric hospital: here we should speak in a whisper. There are 41 patients in Gyumri Mental Health Center today.The Center consists of two parts: men and women cannot stay on the same floor.It was decided by the Ministry of Health.There are patients in the psychiatric hospital who have been living there for more than 10 years.Over the years, patients are getting closer, sometimes even discarded from reality, invent that they live with their relatives under the same roof.
“Speak lower, don’t speak loudly, we are not allowed to speak loudly here; there is a sick person in our house, his headache has hardly gone away, he has drunk pills, let him sleep”, says one of the patients, by the imagination of which the patient lying on the side bed was his relative, and he was his guardian.
Infractions at Gyumri Mental Health Center
At the beginning of the year, the Human Rights Defender of Armenia made a special report on “Ensuring the Rights of Persons with Mental Health Problems in Psychiatric Organizations”, consisted of 112 pages, where there was also a reference to Gyumri Mental Health Center.HRD observers-experts recorded a number of infractions in the Center, according to which the Center was overcrowded, the bath was organized every 10 days,there was a lack of tables and chairs in the dining rooms; there were no taxophones or phones, there was an expired medication.Director of the Center Nadya Vardanyan agrees with some of the mentioned issues.For example, she admits that at that time the building was overcrowded, they had more than 55 patients, and the building was not allowed to have such amount of patients.But she doesn’t admit the fact that there is no proper property in the dining room.The report also touched upon the fact that an expired pill was detected in the hospital.According to the doctor, however, they have so small budgets that the pill cannot remain and get expired.
“We don’t use a straitjacket. If we professionally find that the patient is out of control, we try to calm him down with drug methods. There is no word about beating”, says the doctor,referring to the point by the HRD, that in a number of psychiatric hospitals of the republic the patients are tied and beaten.
The woman presented on the video was moved to Gyumri four years ago.Before that, she lived in Nubarashen psychiatric center in Yerevan.
Expired drugs, violence: the HRD of Armenia tells about the problems existing in psychiatric hospitals
“In 2017 the issues on the protection of the rights of persons with mental health problems in psychiatric organizations were in the Human Rights Defender’s spotlight”, RA Human Rights Defender Arman Tatoyan stated during the meeting with journalists, on March 21 this year, noting that last year they conducted monitoring visits to all psychiatric hospitals.In the result of the visits, it was found out that, for example, a number of psychiatric organizations had used restraint, affective methods unforeseen by the law and infractions of their use wererecorded. For example, leather belts of complex structure were used for physical restraint at Gyumri Mental Health Center. According to the Defender's special report of 2018, rubber cords were used as a means of restraint in Armash Health Center, Avan and Nubarashen psychiatric hospitals, knots made of sheet pieces in Vardenis psychiatric hospital and belts made of synthetic fabric in medical institutions of Syunik and Lori. Moreover, in most medical institutions there are no separate rooms for the use of restraint methods. Everything is done in front of the eyes of all the rest patients. According to the same report, expired drugs were found out at the hospital pharmacy, departments, in intervention rooms of Nubarashen, Gyumri, Lori and Vardenis psychiatric clinics.The report notes that they were not even properly recorded in registers.According to the Human Rights Defender, people with mental health problems in some cases had the opportunity to buy medicines from nearby pharmacies without supervision. According to the Human Rights Defender,in some hospitals, sometimes the clothes were not personalized after washing and were distributed by the principle of chance. There are also problems with living conditions, including sanitary and hygienic conditions.According to the report, the largest infractions were recorded at Nubarashen psychiatric hospital.
Gyumri Mental Health Center is going to greet 2019. The patients note that this is their favorite holiday.
The problem is at the stage of settlement. According to the official statement, the Ministry of Health has approved a program of measures to eliminate infractions in Defender's extraordinary public report on psychiatric hospitals.Particularly, a new form of an awareness sheet of a person’s rights being in psychiatric hospital has been approved.A number of draft laws have been developed that relate to the procedure of psychiatric care and service of a person recognized as dysfunctional, to the cooperation with legal bodies and so on.Ongoing repair works have been carried out in a number of psychiatric organizations. Beds, household goods, furniture, linen, physical restraints, hygienic and other necessary supplies have been purchased.