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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

New Mental Health Clinic To Be Built In Samoa
Health minister says mentally-ill better off in family’s care

By Lanuola Tupufia

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Jan. 24, 2013) – In Samoa, a new mental Health Clinic will soon be constructed behind the old hospital building at Moto’otua.

The old clinic, behind the Oceania University of Medicine, has been demolished to make way for the new hospital.

In an interview with the Minister of Health Tuitama Leao Dr. Talalelei Tuitama outside Parliament yesterday, he said plans for a new facility are in the pipeline.

"When phase one is completed we will move on to the next phase," he said. "Phase one is the construction of the new hospital building and the next phase, which is planned for two years, is for the wards and mental health service as well as removing the old theatres."

According to the Minister, mental health services are still being provided at the Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital.

"The house that was used to restrain people is no longer there but the service still remains, it cannot be taken away," he said.

As for the increase number of mentally-ill people walking the streets, Tuitama believes they are better off under the care of their families.

"People who are walking the streets are still being treated at the hospital," he explained.

"But in their own belief, it’s best that they (mentally-ill) are released to be with their families where they can get better care.

"When they are released to their families, their injections and medications to take care of them are given to their families but it’s also a challenge for those who treat them when it comes to the point where there’s an increase of pressure and they start to wander off."

The Minister stressed that "our people are not violent when they wonder off on the side of the road."

He pointed out that instead people feel sorry for those who are mentally ill and they give them money and food.

"But if they do become violent and causes threat to the safety of the public, that is where they are forced to be restrained incase they hurt themselves or harm others.

"They are required to be restrained in order for them to get treatment to calm them down and then release them to their families to stay with them and get treatment when staffs come to visit them for their medications."

Asked for a comment about Hans Dalton’s death, the Minister defended the Mental Health Unit.

"An investigation is completed and there was nothing wrong. He was becoming violent where he broke the door to the room that he was restrained in and after it was fixed to stop him he broke it again."

The Minister defended the police and pointed out that police in fact didn’t have the knowledge to handle people with mental illness.

However, he said Mr. Dalton shouldn’t have been locked together with someone else.

"He should’ve been in the room by himself. But all of this will be clarified after an inquiry."

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