Social media furore over ‘mentally ill’ woman discharged from hospital

national October 05, 2017 01:00

By The Nation

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A MIRROR FOUNDATION post about a homeless, alcohol-addicted, mentally ill Bangkok woman being released back on to the street by a hospital that needed her bed for another patient has drawn criticism from social media users.

Many people said it was unfair to blame the hospital entirely when the woman could not recover from mental illness due to her drinking, which worsened her symptoms.

The foundation cited the hospital doctor as saying that “she would recover if she stopped drinking” and that her living in the cold to do that by herself was her “right”.

But, the foundation said, the woman was not well enough to take care of herself or to know what a good quality life looked like.

Social media user Yuwares Chantem said the issue of mentally ill patients was a social problem for which the hospital should not be solely held responsible.

“Nowadays, nurses are working beyond their capacity ... Once the patients are released, a follow-up caregiver should be identified to keep them, especially those without relatives and homes, on medication,” she said.

Natthapol Soryanee and Matinee Chaichana concurred, saying other agencies or community groups should undertake post-release patient care. Thamma Ditthapon suggested that the foundation provide a disposition plan for hospital-bed management rather than just point fingers. 

The foundation responded, insisting that it had merely tried to say the hospital should have taken into consideration the context and related factors in releasing such a patient, and applied a careful and well-thought-out solution. The foundation said the matter should be addressed rather than people simply accepting things as they are. 

The foundation said the patient would not recover by herself due to her alcohol addiction and the lack of a caregiver due to her homeless status. 

The hospital did not consider other options to ensure better care, such as referring her to a psychiatric institution or a state-run welfare facility as per the Mental Health Act, the foundation said.

In August, the Health Systems Research Institute (HSRI) revealed very low rates of mentally ill people seeking and accessing treatment in Thailand.

HSRI manager Jaruayporn Srisasalux had said, while other illnesses such as cancer, stroke and heart disease and even road accidents received huge funding from the government, mental illnesses – including those stemming from alcohol addiction and substance abuse – received relatively small funding for services and personnel development.

A 2008 report by the Mental Health Department found only 150,000 out of 1.2 million depression patients were treated, while fewer than 120,000 out of 5.3 million regular alcohol drinkers underwent a rehabilitation programme.

HSRI researcher Dr Tawanchai Jirapramookpitak’s study of 3,877 people over 18 in 11 Pathum Thani communities from June to September 2015 found that only 11.8 per cent of people with a history of mental illness such as depression had ever sought treatment or consultation. Only 2.9 per cent had sought treatment or consultation in the past year. 


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