The Ministry of Health, in collaboration with World Health Organization (WHO) has begun consultation, to start drafting a new mental health legislation that addresses human rights principles and objectives.

The work of the drafters comprised of discussions with stakeholders and community consultations on the policy, which began on June 1 and will end Friday, June 16 (tomorrow).

The existing Mental Health Act for Vanuatu dates back to 1965 and has never been amended.

Mr Len Tarivonda, Director of Public Health, said in his opening address that appropriate new legislation was overdue and it was time for Vanuatu to officially recognize human right issues when addressing mental health services.

The purpose of the original Act is stated as being to provide for the “reception and detention of persons of unsound mind in the mental hospital at Port Vila”.

But times have changed. There has been no designated mental hospital since Independence and the 1965 Act as written has been effectively non-operational.

When it comes to mental health issues, human rights abuses have been common practice in many places around the world and especially in large mental health institutions. In recent years, medical research and understanding of mental health has significantly changed and the current emphasis is to deinstitutionalize people and to provide better outpatient treatment and rehabilitation programs that engage persons with mental health issues to be actively involved in their own treatment and also to involve families and community to help care and support the person experiencing the problem.

This means that “compulsory care and treatment” should be the exception rather than the rule and all people with mental health issues should have the right to consent to treatment whether it is offered in a hospital facility or in a community setting.

The proposed new legislation focuses on human rights and will bring Vanuatu in line with world best practice. READ MORE