The Mental health care program was developed as a response to the needs of one of the most vulnerable groups of society: psychiatric patients.
During the nineties, among the most endangered institutions were the psychiatric hospitals. The drastic resource and labor reduction as well as the difficult social situation led the psychiatric hospitals to severe isolation. Before the Caritas took action, most of the patients in these institutions lived in degrading environment, without any human dignity. The lack of food, beds, mattresses, sheets, clothes, shoes, basic hygiene and medication led to the lack of human care. There were no mental health centers nor health care which would offer the alternative to the hospitalization, which was common practice in treating these patients.
During 2001/02, Caritas Serbia and Montenegro began its work on solving the key problems. The reduction of the number of hospitalized patients by promoting the modern psychiatric service, transforming the hospitals into structures only for acute patients, reduction of institutionalization according to time and resources of the country, as well as education of the employees.
The Institutional reform was supported with seminars and workshops in sixteen cities. The heads of the psychiatric hospitals visited the centers in Italy, and the support was given to the new law regarding mental patient rights as well as reform of the psychiatric system.
Beside the humanization of psychiatric hospitals, upgrading the quality of life for their patients and promoting the modern psychiatric services, program also included the promoting the community based approach, deinstitutionalization and inclusion of patients into the social and/or family context.
The best practical result of this work was the realization of the pilot-project: opening of the first mental health protection center in Niš, in the municipality of “Medijana”, on October 2nd 2005.
The mental health program is continuing, regarding the future steps that would be necessary in health system so that the present work can lead to the safe and secure future. The main areas of work remain the same as those in the previous years:
- Education of the employees in Mental Health care centers
- The following of the pilot project of mental health protection center in Niš and it’s development
- Raising awareness of the civil society.