Caption: Shamima Ali file photo.
The Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre raises its concern over the recent discriminatory remarks made by the Minister of Health, Dr. Neil Sharma, concerning Fiji’s ongoing issues with mental health and access to psychiatric facilities that provide service for mental healthcare. The Minister’s remarks violate the human rights of people suffering with a mental condition or illness, and are contrary to both section 7 of the Mental Health Decree and section 26 of the Bill of Rights in the Regime’s new Constitution.
“It’s quite appalling that the Minister of Health states that accessing a well known and only psychiatric facility currently available in the country, would be detrimental in terms of what people in your community will think of you. His remarks are discouraging and harmful to those already disadvantaged by the lack of proper mental health care facilities and stigmatised by perceptions of mental illness”, said Shamima Ali, Coordinator of FWCC.
“The social costs of not addressing a country’s mental health issues outweigh the economic costs of providing necessary mental health facilities. The Minister of Health fails to take into account that there are a lot of people living in Fiji that continue to suffer due to the stigma of having a mental condition or illness, some have suffered undiagnosed and are denied available treatment because of the lack of access to mental health facilities; all of this because of the negative stereotypes that are prevalent in society surrounding mental health—this we can change but the change needs to start from the top.”
“The Minister because of his position as head of Healthcare in Fiji should be advocating for mental healthcare not contributing to the stigmas surrounding the issue. FWCC deals with a number of women and children who suffer from mental health issues, some of which have been a result of traumatic violence they have experienced. The Minister’s remarks only acts to further discourage these women and children from accessing mental health facilities that are available”, Shamima Ali further remarked.
The Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre calls for a public apology from the Minister of Health and for realistic measures for more mental health care facilities are made available in Fiji.