“World Mental Health Awareness Week” is celebrated all over the world in May every year and between 13-19 May this year. When it comes to health, physical health usually comes to mind. However, the mental health of a person, who is a biological, psychological and social being, is at least as important as their physical health.
When we look at our country, it is apparent that we have many deficiencies in the field of mental health. First and foremost, we have legal deficiencies. The draft law on “Mental Health” was sent to the parliament six months ago, and it is still to be passed and implemented. For this reason, we continue to use the law created during the British period in the 1930s. In other words, since it was established, the TRNC has not made any laws in the field of mental health.
An individual with mental health problems has the right to receive quality health services, just like in other health fields, and quality health services are not a luxury but a necessity. In order to provide quality health services to individuals with mental disorders, the mental health law, which will protect patients and determine the standards of health services, must be passed by the parliament as soon as possible. Since the quality of the team providing mental health services is just as important as the quantity, it is a great requirement for both mental health patients and mental health professionals, that the service definitions of mental health service providers are included in the law.
With the recent signing of the protocol between the Cyprus Turkish Psychologists Association and the Ministry of Health, it was stated that psychologists will serve in all health centers affiliated to the Ministry of Health. We hope that this good step, which will contribute to the mental health of our society, will proceed systematically.
In our country, graduate and doctorate studies in the field of Mental Health and Psychiatric Nursing has been given since not too long ago. As it is known, nurses are an occupational group that interact with patients 24 hours a day. Specialist psychiatric nurses, through establishing therapeutic relationships with individuals, have the knowledge and equipment necessary to directly affect the course of recovery. Therefore, the appointment of specialist psychiatric nurses in areas of specialization is extremely important in order to increase the quality of mental health services. It is apparent that the draft law does not include specialist psychiatric nurses. This professional group, which will contribute significantly to the quality of the service, must be included in the law.
We have been observing with sadness the serious crime incidents that have taken place in our country lately. With news of these, the issues of mental health and criminal liability came to the fore. These types of new stories fuel already existing prejudices against individuals with mental health problems. For many years, there have been false beliefs that individuals with mental health problems are dangerous and should be avoided. Yet when the necessary follow-up and treatment is done, these individuals can continue their lives like everyone else. They just need the support of the community, the service of quality mental health professionals, and legal protection.
Just how we perceive a heart patient as normal and know that they can survive with certain monitoring and treatment, we should also know that individuals with impaired mental health can continue their lives like everyone else with monitoring and treatment. In order to prevent stigma, these individuals should be integrated in society as much as possible. It is of great importance that mental health professionals organize activities in this direction in order to prevent wrong beliefs and attitudes of the public and to break prejudices.
What is needed for the protection, development and treatment of our mental health as the Turkish Cypriot community?
- Acceptance! For the public to embrace all those who are mentally ill.
- Laws! To work for the enactment and enforcement of laws.
- A good team! To have a well-qualified team on duty for quality service. The creation of policies by mental health professionals to make way for their advancement through activities and projects, without losing hope.
- Voluntary support of associations and organizations! If volunteers also walk this road, it means there is a light at the end of the road.
The Association for Elderly Rights and Mental Health was established to protect the rights of both the elderly and the mentally ill and continues its activities at a fast pace. Those who want to become a member and contribute in various ways can reach us via our website or Facebook account.