The General Government of the Sisters Hospitallers is evaluating the possibility of opening a new mental health centre in the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, a country located in Southeast Asia.
Sr. Paula Carneiro, who travelled to Timor-Leste to carry out a diagnostic analysis of the country’s mental health needs, told us about her experience:
Having been one of the sisters, along with Sister Leopoldina Angélica, who from July-August 2017 conducted a diagnostic analysis on mental health needs in the country and their organisation, I have received the news that the General Government is considering the possibility of responding to the mental health care needs in this area with immense joy and gratitude to God. During the visit we observed the countless needs these people have in this area of health. Patients are still “treated” according to tradition and ancient cultural and religious rituals… there is no organised response where mental health is concerned, except that provided by the Brothers of St. John of God at a centre situated in the country’s interior, which is isolated by geographical and natural barriers.
During the visit, we highlighted the support and care provided by the Brothers of St. John of God, in particular Brother Vítor Lameiras, the current Provincial Superior, as well as religious and civil organisations. We would like to draw attention to the concern, care, and availability. We were truly grateful for this opportunity to get closer to and become more familiar with these people, this culture, and its needs.
From what we could make out during the visit, it appears that the presence of the Congregation is necessary to respond to people’s mental health needs.
The major need appears to be in Maliana, which allows us to reach more districts: Liquiçá, Aileu; Ermera; Bobonaro; Cova Lima; Ainaro; Manufahi and Oecussi. Since each district has a head nurse, we feel that in Maliana the nursing is quite organised, and all the work involving the monitoring of users can be carried out jointly and systematically.
We feel that a possible sister presence would have the following objectives:
- Train professionals in the districts and sucos (villages) on the issue of mental health.
- Promote early diagnosis whenever necessary.
- Offer advice on assessment and treatment for people with mental illness.
- Encourage treatment and follow up on cases that have already been identified.
- Reduce the stigma attached to mental health with respect to families.
For the moment, we feel that this should be conducted by means of a mobile community care unit alongside the public and on-site professionals. An “all-terrain” vehicle will enable us to attend to people and provide consultations at local health centres, always in collaboration with local health facilities and with the training of local professionals in mind.