In any society, whether it is rich or poor, persons with mental illness are disadvantaged. Usually they need support to remain part of society. They often live in social isolation in special housing programs, making use of programs that offered supported employment and visiting day centers in order to fight isolation, depression and suicidal thoughts. It is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic will result in an increase in mental health related problems. Initial data show that anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts are already increasing.
While we all are scared by what is happening to our lives, persons with mental health issues tend to react much more strongly and it is very possible that their mental illness will deteriorate.
The feeling that things are out of control, together with the often existing social isolation, can lead to severe crises and relapses.Of particular concern are those people living in closed institutions, e.g. social care homes, forensic psychiatric institutions and also in general psychiatric hospitals. In particular in Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the former Soviet Union clients are still derived of their basic human rights, are often living in a closed environment with little knowledge of what is happening in the outside world. In addition, they live in close quarters, and are, in many cases, they are undernourished. There are too few staff and the staff that is there does not have enough time to spend with clients, even if they desire otherwise they are forced to do work by rote
That means that when a person in the institution gets infected, either a staff member or a client, hell will break lose. Staff members will want to stay away from clients as much as possible, more and more clients will get infected and within a short period of time a pandemic will develop within the institution itself.
Numbers vary, but in Ukraine there are 145 social care homes with some 41,000 clients, up to 700 living in one institution. In Russia some 150,000 persons reside in similar social care homes, and in the whole of the former USSR probably up to 350,000 persons are living in these institutions. Also in some of the other countries in Eastern Europe of the Balkans these large institutions continue to exist, and they face similar risks.
Many institutions do not have masks and other protective gear either for staff or for clients. A top priority must be the availability of hand-held thermometers. This will mean that temperatures can be taken for both clients and staff members. A key early stage of detecting COVID-19. There is an acute shortage of these thermometers. In some institutions, where there are hundreds of people living and a large number of staff, trying to provide care, only a few thermometers are available. This must change and we aim to provide institutions with a sufficient number of thermometers. They only cost 85 euro each
Means of Communication
The closed institutions have invariably been closed off from the outside world in order to avoid the spread of COVID-19. This means that the relatively few clients who still had contact with the outside world are no longer able to communicate. This in itself is bad for their mental health. It is important that methods of electronic communication are established, by providing free telephone links or Wi-Fi for those who have their own smart phones, or by establishing computers with Internet communication that would be available to clients within the institution.
The absence of daytime activities is one of the breeding grounds for panic and depression. It is important especially in these periods that management gets the means to organize activities for clients. FGIP wishes to supply social care homes with basic necessities for such activities, e.g. materials for crafts and handiwork and art therapy in small groups where distance rules are obeyed.
Bank account number: NL46 INGB 0006 0707 13
Account holder: Human Rights in Mental Health-FGIP
Hilversum, the Netherlands
Bank: ING Bank
BIC code: INGBNL2A
Human Rights in Mental Health-FGIP
1200 BZ Hilversum