Ingutsheni patients empowered

People with metal health problems are often stigmatized and misunderstood, but a recent visit to Ingutsheni Mental Hospital revealed the hard work being done to rehabilitate and engage with patients.

Ingutsheni Hospital, the largest mental health facility in the country.
Ingutsheni Hospital, the largest mental health facility in the country.

Built in the 1900s, Ingutsheni is the biggest mental hospital in the country and also runs a training school for psychiatrist students. As part of its rehabilitation programme, the hospital runs an occupational therapy department that imparts life and development skills to the inmates.

“We have a heavy duty workshop where the patients, under the supervision of occupational therapy trainers, repair furniture, shoes and many other things. The patients also do carpentry and vegetable gardening,” said the hospital’s Chief Executive officer, Dr Godwin Simbarashe Gwisai.

One of the occupational therapy trainers, Isheunesu Mandinyenya, said he enjoyed working with the patients.

“As long as the patients take their medication, they can do their work. The only problem is that some of the medication makes them feel dizzy and weak. In such cases, we need to monitor them very closely, otherwise they might hurt themselves,” said Mandinyenya.

Farm hands

The hospital also has an overhead irrigation unit which is worked by the patients. The kitchen is stocked with produce from the farm and the surplus is sold to members of the public.

“The farm is run by a farm manager who teaches the patients good farming practices. We have also a portion of land where we plant maize during the rainy season,” said Gwisai.

The 708-bed institute runs a mentally challenged children’s home, St Francis Children’s Home, as well as a rehabilitation village, Bellevue Half-way home.

“Bellevue Half-way Home mainly caters for chronic or recurrent cases, or those people who are still ill but can manage on their own with little supervision. The concept of the village is also to settle the patients in an environment where they are safe,” said Gwisai.

According to the hospital’s Principal Nursing Officer, Davison Ntini, the most common illness at the hospital is schizophrenia, a psychiatric condition which leads to affected patients being mentally out of touch with reality.

“Schizophrenia is one of the most common psychiatric conditions which we attend to at the hospital. The symptoms of the condition are initially disorder, and then loss of contact with reality followed by hearing of sounds others cannot hear and seeing what others cannot see,” said Ntini.

Ntini said there is no cure for the illness but the condition can be only controlled with anti-psychotic drugs.

Re-admission concerns

One of the main concerns that Ntini and his colleagues have is the re-admission of patients following their discharge.

Between January and December last year, a total of 544 patients where re-admitted at the hospital while a total of 510 patients were re-admitted at the school.

“I think there is something wrong with our community health mental services,” he said.

In an effort to educate members of the public on how to help mental patients rejoin the community, Ingutsheni Hospital holds an annual open day in October.

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