25 May 2011

New Fiji policy aimed at removing mental health stigma

3:09 pm on 25 May 2011

A doctor in Fiji says the stigma of mental illness has deterred people from seeking help, but it's hoped the decentralisation of services will make it easier.

A stress management ward opened at Suva's Colonial War Memorial Hospital yesterday, while a similar ward opened in Labasa last week, and another will open in Lautoka next month.

A senior medical officer Dr Amelia Andrews says until now St Giles Hospital has been the country's only mental health facility.

She says the new wards will not carry the stigma that's attached to St Giles, which has led people to try and manage their symptoms at home.

"It had to do with the name initially, because this place was called asylum, and then it changed to St Giles hoping that the stigma would be reduced. But a lot of belief is mental illness has to do with witchcraft, rather than a physical disorder. That's mostly the belief here in Fiji."

Dr Andrews says the new wards will help people with anxiety or depression, while those with more aggressive symptoms will be treated at St Giles.