Editorial: Not just a wish

When it comes to mental illness one must always be very careful not to stigmatise. Nevertheless, the manner in which a reportedly disturbed man with an ice pick stabbed a shopper entering a local supermarket (see Saturday paper) raises concern.

After all, it’s basically a nightmare scenario for most people to suffer that kind of attack from nowhere and without any apparent reason. In this case the suspect was well-known to police, which indicates it’s not the first time he has caused problems either.

While the officers placed him under arrest, chances are that won’t last too long. Luckily the victim wasn’t badly hurt, but things easily could have ended a whole lot worse.

An editorial in a no-longer-existing local newspaper during the mid-1990s once exclaimed, “St. Maarten needs a crazy house,” after several violent incidents involving persons believed to have been mentally unstable. Two decades later there is still no psychiatric hospital like the Capriles Clinic in Curaçao where such people are kept against their will if necessary for the protection of society and/or themselves.

Although Mental Health Foundation (MFH) does what it can and accommodates a number of patients, the local institution is not really geared towards mandatory detention. Of course, a judge always can order the latter and if it regards drug abuse the rehabilitation programme provided by Turning Point Foundation is certainly an option, but the island simply does not offer much in the way of appropriate facilities to effectively deal with people who are mentally unstable and potentially dangerous as a result.

Curaçao’s SDKK correctional centre, for example, has a so-called FOBA section for criminals with these types of psychological problems. The same thing is in the works for the Pointe Blanche prison, but the Progress Committee on the Law Enforcement Plans of Approach noted recently that the ongoing expansion, including that part, had been halted due to lack of finances and several needed appointments, including that of a social worker, also were still pending.

Granted, Justice Minister Edson Kirindongo has committed to executing these projects, which is required to comply with standards of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In that sense too it’s not just a wish, but actually a must.
Source: Daily Herald
Not just a wish