All-Russia Society of Persons with mental health Disabilities and their relatives (ARSP) “New Choices”
“New Choices” – All-Russia Society of Persons with mental health Disabilities and their relatives (ARSP) established only four years ago now incorporates 50 regional branches. We established partnership relations with the Moscow Research Institute of Psychiatry, management of regional psychiatric services, local government bodies and organizations of persons with disability. Our Society is a member of the EUFAMI, GAMIAN, we participate in the Russian-Canadian Program of Invalids, take part in conferences of the WHO. The main goal of our organization is to improve social and legal status of persons with psychiatric disabilities and their families in society and to assist in the improvement of the quality of psychiatric treatment and aid. The key objectives of our Society recently discussed at the 4th inter-regional conference on experience transfer could be summarized as follows:
Group educational programs in psychiatry provided in many regions of Russia. The relevant courses are arranged by enthusiasts including psychiatrists, social workers in clinics and hospitals. It is expected that in the nearest future such courses will be provided by members of our organization (our leaders) having the relevant training. First in the country Manual on treatment of mental disorders intended for relatives and patients is under preparation in collaboration with the department of outpatient psychiatry (chief Prof. I.Ya. Gurovich). Under preparation is also a collection of papers “Overcoming” devoted to the experience in mental disorders and their treatment.
Opening of hostels and boarding houses for outpatient accommodation is our constant pain and concern. So far all our efforts to create “housing under protection” in Moscow were not a success however this form of accommodation proved to be very livable not only abroad but also in more than 10 cities of Russia. If at the beginning they started as rehabilitation centers under the psychiatric clinics now the necessary experience in housing the former patients in rental dwellings closer to the real life was accumulated by a number of Russian cities such as Ekaterinburg, Omsk, Pervouralsk. Provision of such hostels was a result of joint efforts of psychiatrists and social workers. Hospitals are still playing the role of refuges and very expensive ones. In Moscow the cost of 1 bed/day at psychiatric clinic is not less than 300 rubles. The money of tax payers goes rather to isolate patients than to aid them. Half year ago for the second time we applied to the Head of Public Healthcare Committee of Moscow A.P. Seltsov for assistance in the provision of hostels for young people with psychiatric disabilities. The received reply said that such form of aid is not sufficiently developed.
Social and professional rehabilitation. Each tenth case of hospitalization is associated with social reasons – patients have no home to live, no livelihood, simply no place in the world of “normal people” that is turning them down. As a rule, such patients are ignored by the local social centers at their places of residence and are subject to discrimination only because of the fact of their illness. Most of labor-treatment shops turned to be non-competitive while the society wants to pay off by giving pensions to such patients rather than to make use of their skills not lost as a result of illness and to rehabilitate their self-respect as working people. However, rehabilitation centers established in a number of cities such as Asbest, Tomsk, Omsk, Murmansk, Orenburg, Pervouralsk proved to be a success. Work of our patients at the art shops gives them some earnings. Job opportunities are provided at conventional city enterprises. The main pride of our Society is our own typography. We are publishing a newspaper, collections of papers devoted to regional experience, poems written by our poets. We hope that our circle work will become a kind of “a spring board” to work at city enterprises. All our undertakings such as the expansion of typographic activity, computer courses, holding of conferences, musical classes that are partially supported by the grants of Moscow Government (and we are very grateful to them) but for the most part – by foreign sponsors and pharmaceutical companies require further material support. One more problem is associated with the need in timely adoption of a new edition of the “Law on the Protection of Mental Health” (that should be prepared by the joint efforts of professionals and public self-help organizations of patients).
Drug supply. According to the inquiry of members of the Moscow Branch almost each patient’s family has to allocate from its modest budget up to 500 rubles every month to buy drugs for its mentally ill relative. At the same time a list of psychotropic drugs provided on a free-of-charge or privileged basis has been rapidly reducing. Psychotropic drugs of new generation are very limited – only 1 out of 200-300 patients could have them (whereas in foreign countries they are prescribed in 50% of cases). Inadequate laboratory provision results in the excessive application of high-cost hospital aid, economizing with drugs turns to be false: miser has to pay twice. A relevant application was submitted to the RF State Duma and Federation Council to consider a privilege granting procedure for invalids as a result of mental disorders.
Stigma. Stigma is many-sided and manifested as artificial barriers and discrimination in employment and the right to decent treatment and housing, attitude to psychiatry as a step-daughter of public healthcare. This year our Society was included in the international “ZeroStigma” program. The first input into this program was a TV-film “Right to Hope” describing the labor activity and everyday life of members of our organization. The second recently shot TV-film is devoted to our leisure activities. We are willingly collaborating in publishing activity. Only during the last year more than 10 publications about the life of our organization were issued. A number of radio programs were prepared. Our nearest plans are associated with the initiation of training programs in psycho-education for schoolchildren in collaboration with psychiatrists. And the last but not the least important issue refers to our leisure activities. We gather in our “Yellow Submarine” to celebrate our holidays. In Moscow and other regions art museums were opened for our painters. Our society tries to fill the gap between laboratory and hospital services. We are at the beginning stage of initiating our programs aimed to change public opinion about mental illnesses. We try to change the mentality of psychiatrists and official decision-makers in order to improve the life of mentally ill patients and their families. There are a lot of us: every 2 out of 100 Russian people have serious mental disorders and, as a rule, near such patients are their relatives and friends. We hope that the number of our good friends and kind caregivers will be constantly growing.
May all our dreams come true!