Attorney at Law Mary Francis has expressed concern over violent mentally ill patients who are roaming the streets.
She believes they should be institutionalised to ensure they get the medication they need, so that if they are released they do not pose a threat to the society.
“If there is a problem in terms of their family members not being able to restrain and supervise them, they should be housed by the state. There are too many such people around nowadays,” the Coordinator of the National Centre for Legal Aid and Human Rights told St Lucia Times.
Francis spoke against the backdrop of the recent attack in Castries on former Post Master General, Begninus Henry by a man described as a lunatic.
The attacker struck Henry behind the head with a stone.
The former senior civil servant had to be hospitalised and has since been released.
“This is a perennial problem in our country,” Mary Francis told St Lucia Times.
She expressed the view that for the longest while, Saint Lucia has faced the issue of how to deal with mentally ill people on the streets.
“It is time that we get a solution to the problem,” the outspoken human rights advocate asserted.
She said she believes she is familiar with the man who attacked Henry.
According to Francis, the attacker has on more than one occasion broken the glass door of the building that houses her office.
“I believe he was arrested some time last year and taken off the streets and no sooner he was removed he was back again,” the Attorney at Law recalled.
She expressed the view that despite being entitled to human rights, once such individuals become a menace to the society the society needs to be protected from them.
Francis said it was sad that Begninus Henry was attacked by someone of unsound mind.
“I think something has to be done,” she declared.
She recalled that some years ago attempts were being made to have a policy in place to prevent mentally ill persons inflicting harm on themselves or others.
“But in terms of the community mental health programme, I think that was just shelved,” she told St Lucia Times.
Francis lamented that there appears to be no consistency in terms of policy development in this country.
She asserted that it was time for the authorities to do something about violent mentally ill persons, creating a balance between human rights and the safety of the community.
Francis said the policies in place at the Mental Wellness Centre are not working well and need to be strengthened.
“You heard – I think some time last year, we heard about a person who actually jumped the gate and disappeared. ”
Francis said things are not well at the Mental Wellness Centre.
She disclosed that she has received reports about persons who are ‘quite normal’ but are ‘maliciously reported’ to the police by family members and taken to the centre.
“Those people are being deprived of their liberty, so there needs to be some kind of investigation into the policies in terms of the role of the police, the Wellness Centre – the legislation governing mental health in Saint Lucia.”
According to Francis, that legislation dates back to the nineteen fifties.
“We have to do some law reform in Saint Lucia,” she declared.